IS the final five starting to take shape nearing the half-way mark of the Pineapple Hotel Cup?
We’ll certainly know more after Saturday’s fixtures because the top five teams are drawn against five of the lower-ladder sides, Springwood excepted (the Pumas have the weekend bye).
On current standings, Sandgate (24), Wilston-Grange (24), Western Magpies (20) and Noosa (16) hold the top five spots.
But there are four teams on 12 points and they are all Gold Coast clubs – Palm Beach-Currumbin, Coolangatta, Surfers Paradise and Burleigh – so positions could alter significantly come late Saturday afternoon.
The draw is: Sandgate v Maroochy-Northshore, Wilston-Grange v Burleigh, Surfers Paradise v Palm Beach-Currumbin, Noosa v Coolangatta and Mayne v Western Magpies.
By Terry Wilson
Wilston Grange v Burleigh
At Hickey Park, 1pm Saturday
WILSTON-Grange have regained key attacked Anthony ‘Mac’ Penny for the home match against Burleigh at Sunlinc Oval (Hickey Park.
The second-placed Gorillas look a better-balanced side with Penny calling the shots at centre half-forward, according to coach David Martin, which is bad news for Burleigh, who have really struggled for tall timber to counter tall opposition attacking formations.
Penny has played only one match for the Gorillas since moving across town from NEAFL club Morningside in the off-season.
That was in round one against Sandgate when Penny strained a hamstring – an injury he aggravated in a work accident – which explains why he has been off the scene for so long.
“It is a big in for us, simply because we haven’t had him,” said Martin. “He probably got us going against Sandgate and he straightens up the attack.”
Penny comes into the side to replace midfielder Elliott Hohenhaus who, ironically, has hamstring soreness.
In a match which pits co-leaders the Grange against eighth-placed Burleigh, the Gorillas are wary of their weekend opposition.
“We’re not taking Burleigh lightly,” said Martin. “They played in a preliminary final last year, they’re always aggressive and they’re always strong.”
Bombers coach Zane Doubleday did not welcome news that Penny was resuming for the Grange.
“We’ll be stretched for height, as usual,” he said, despite the fact two of four inclusions to his side are ‘mid-talls’, central defender Tim McKay and utility Tim Schlaghecke.
The other two inclusions for the Bombers are Jacob Howell and Blake Cook, both called up from the reserves.
Burleigh’s outs this weekend are midfielder Matt Jamieson (throat operation), Aaron Axelby (leg stress fracture), Ben Sullivan (shoulder) and Brad Payne (broken wrist).
“I guess we get some height with McKay and Schlaghecke, but we lose in the middle with Jamieson, Payne and Sullivan,” said Doubleday.
The Bombers are coming off a big second half against Maroochy-Northshore last weekend when the piled on 15.4 to 5.5
“It was good how we finished last week, so if we can piece four quarters together, who knows what can happen,” said Doubleday.
“But we are obviously going to be stretched for depth this weekend.”
Surfers Paradise v Palm Beach-Currumbin
At Sir Bruce Small Park, 2pm Saturday
AS Surfers Paradise coach Rob Martin so succinctly put it, the juggernaut called Palm Beach-Currumbin seems to be starting to roll.
In the Pineapple Hotel Cup match of the round – between two Gold Coast clubs with three wins for the season – Martin’s Demons confront a side that has put on totals of 211, 162 and 215 points in the last three weekends.
Those scores certainly suggest a potent Lions pride is beginning to emerge after a start to the season when they lost games against big three Noosa, Sandgate and the Western Magpies.
Added pressure for this derby is the fact that these sides have 12 points for the season, among four clubs on the same number of points.
Martin has certainly taken note of the sharp rise in performance from PBC.
“The juggernaut’s starting to roll at Palmy,” said Martin.
Surfers are coming off a loss to Coolangatta, a performance that disappointed Martin.
“It was an ordinary game, we just made more mistakes,” said Martin of the effort against Coolangatta and who plans special tactics to cut down the run of PBC.
“We’ll try to limit their use in the corridor, that’s where they like to use it, and use enough pressure to force them to turn the ball over.”
The Demons have two changes, losing Mitch Ryan through injury and omitting tall option Mick Cunningham.
The Demons elevated Brent Harty and Mark Sanford (ex-Labrador) as replacements.
Things are going along nicely at Palm Beach, where players are just starting to fit into coach Craig O’Brien’s style.
“We’ve had a good week on the track, the boys are training well at the moment – which is a good sign.” said O’Brien.
“But we have to keep winning, we can’t afford to drop our guard.
“Surfers are pretty good at home, so it’s going to be a tough game for us.”
The Demons have already beaten Noosa at Small Park and ran Sandgate to a close decision in another match there.
The Lions have two changes, losing youngster Tyson Dyer (injured) and veteran ruckman/forward David Round, who is being rested.
Their replacements are pretty handy midfielders Darryl Dyson and co-captain Matt Carroll.
Noosa v Coolangatta
At Weyba Road, 2pm Saturday
NOOSA coach Wayne Fletcher has taken steps to ensure the bye blues do not return to haunt his Tigers when they host Coolangatta on Saturday.
For the match between the competition’s most northerly and southerly clubs, Fletcher is wary of the effects byes have had on his team.
Noosa lost away to Noosa the weekend after the Easter break, and it was much the same in 2010 before the Tigers went on to win the premiership.
Last weekend the Tigers were idle with the round seven bye.
“Yes, we have been a bit slow out of the blocks after the breaks and Surfers got the jump on us after the Easter break this year,” he said.
“We’ve been focussed on it and this time I hope we’ve done the right things in between.”
Noosa have reunited the Duke brothers Brett and Troy – ‘Angel’ and ‘Evil’ as the pair are nicknamed in the Tiger camp with Troy returning as one of two changes to the side.
Midfielder Brooks Durdin is unavailable and ruckman Andrew Coates is out for several weeks with a hernia problem.
The Tigers have called up promising junior product Ryley Buntain for his seniors debut for the club.
“He was a top-line basketballer who went up north to play,” said Fletcher of his latest addition.
“He’s 190 centimetres, is athletic and has been pretty impressive in the reserves.”
Coolangatta, who were crushed by ruthless Palm Beach-Currumbin last round, have two changes.
The Blues lose forward Ricky Whitehead (work) and Darcy Fitzgerald (family), replacing them with the club’s leading goalkicker Emmaus Wartuvo and central defender Mark Greeney.
That adds spine to the Blues for the competition’s toughest and longest road trip.
“It’s a big trip for any team,” said coach Neil Mackay. “Travelling up the road for that long, it’s always interesting to see the players when they get out of the car. Are they ready or are they still in dreamland.
“It’s just another challenge for us. We’ll work on what we’re trying to work and see if it holds up against a good unit.”
Mayne v Western Magpies
At Everton Park, 2pm Saturday
THERE is a feeling out there that, in a round where the top five sides play the bottom five sides, an upset is on the cards.
And it may just come when Mayne host the Western Magpies at Everton Park.
Mayne player-coach Luke Faulkner certainly believes his Tigers are in with a “We were close last week (v Wilston-Grange),” said Faulkner.
“We played good footy in patches, so if we can do that again – and eliminate the bad periods – yes, we’re a chance.
“Sure the Magpies will be short-priced favourites, but I don’t think the ladder
really reflects where we’re at as a club.
“We’re playing better than over the past few years and we can kick goals, so that’s not the problem.
“The problem is at the other end in our defence.”
The Tigers have three changes, losing Logan Bower back to Morningside, as well as replacing Jaxon Quaife and Keane White.
Into the Tigers pride are Luke Radonich. Ryan Louwen-Scovdam and newcomer Chris Sheehan, who hails from State Association club the Wynnum Vikings.
Western Magpies have had to replace Chris Hunt, who was heavily concussed last weekend and made further changes in Daniel Dai and Blake McClennan.
Football manager Anthony McDonald, who will help out in the absence of coach Peter McClennan on Saturday, confirmed the returns of David Hamill, Will Fozard and Tim Coulburn.
“Obviously getting ‘Hammers’ and Will back makes a big difference to the team,” said McDonald of the returns of key forward Hamill and backline spark Fozard.
McDonald said there is no way the Magpies will fly into Everton Park cocky, specially th way things are at the top of the ladder where the Magpies are third with a win-loss record of 5-2.
“After our setback last weekend (the Magpies lost at home to Sandgate), we definitely don’t want to be 5-3 after the weekend,” he said.
“We see this as a real danger game. Mayne seem to be rebuilding and we have to get back on track.”
Sandgate v Maroochy-Northshore
At Lemke Road, 2pm Saturday
SLOW times in the building industry have cost ladder leaders Sandgate the services of quality wingman Chris Pettit for the rest of the season.
Bit at least his older brother, champion ruckman Michael, is staying put at Lemke Road – for the time being at the moment – where Sandgate host Maroochy-Northshore on Saturday.
Chris Pettit has moved back to Victoria for work, a loss the Hawks will feel says captain-coach Ben Long.
“He has moved back to Victoria for work,” said Long. “He was part of the leadership at the club, so the building industry not doing clubs any favours at the moment.”
The Hawks have one other change for the match against the Roos, who have omitted Michael Richardson.
The Hawks brought in small forward Trent Morrissey, a member of the 2010 grand final side, and on-baller David Scott.
Morrissey has played two matches in reserve grade since recovering from a knee injury.
Things are grim on the Sunshine Coast where the Roos have made six changes.
Among the unavailables this weekend are captain David Hulsman (family), and injury victims Kane Tyson and Shaun McKenzie – rated in the top bracket of players at the club.
Also out are David Moore, Matt Cilia and Steve Shelley, who has moved back to Victoria.
“We’re just plugging holes,” said coach Roger Delaney, who announced the debut of 17-year-old local junior, rover Riley Mansfield.
“We’re keen on getting these guys some game time,” said Delaney, who agreed it is an opportune time for his inexperienced side to come up against a power such as Sandgate.
“The biggest thing this year has been our fight – and we have to get it back this weekend.
“We certainly do not want another effort like the second half against Burleigh last weekend.
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