By Beth Newman
Labrador has put its early season injury woes behind them, set to field their strongest side of the year in their knock-out semi against Mt Gravatt this Sunday.
Tigers captain, Ryan Davey, is the most notable inclusion in the side, playing his first game since Rd 14, their last clash with the Vultures, but the return of Tom Daniel and Kieran Daley cannot be underestimated either.
Labrador took a cautious approach last weekend with a double chance in hand, but with their season on the line, Tigers coach, Steve Daniel, said they needed to bring out all their big guns.
“We’ve brought in the big boys and it’s a cut throat final,” he said.
“If we win this, we get a crack at Morningside or Palm Beach.”
Mt Gravatt sliced open Broadbeach last weekend with their run and Daniel said his team would be ready for that.
“That’s why a couple of ours have gone out,” he said.
“Daley’s come in and Davey’s pretty quick.”
The form of ruckman Josh Clarke will give the Tigers confidence against the Vultures, with youngster Wylie Buzza shouldering the lions’ share of the ruckload, with Craig Malone (ineligible) and Jonah Licht (wrist) out of the Vultures side this weekend.
Mt Gravatt will get a boost from the inclusion of Redland-listed Sam Godfrey, who has been in strong form in the NEAFL, while Tim Douge comes back into the side.
The return of Mitch Hart to their back line could be the most pivotal inclusion, with the 21 year-old one of the Vultures’ most important players before an ankle injury, against the Tigers, threatened to end his season. .
Dangerous Mt Gravatt midfielder, Frazer Neate, will not have an easy day, likely to be kept under close watch by the Tigers.
Vultures coach, Brad Pollock, said they would harness their damaging pace again this week
“That’s the key for us in this game, I don’t believe Labrador could match us in that area,” he said.
“Our pace and movement of the ball is going to be the key for us this weekend.”
While his side was glad to get a first-up finals win, Pollock said there would be no feeling that one was enough.
“There’s obviously that doubt that they think they’ve achieved something already, but talking to the group , they’re of the firm belief they can match it with anyone.”
“They don’t want to be satisfied with one final win.”
MORNINGSIDE v PALM BEACH
For the first time in five weeks, QAFL minor premiers, Morningside, have something at stake.
Since they officially stitched up the minor premiership in Rd 16, no loss could knock them from top spot, but tomorrow, a grand final spot, is on the line, and the equation is one of which Panthers coach, David Lake, is acutely aware.
“It (finals) is the reason you get out of bed and play,” he said.
“It is great to be in a game that has repercussions and the outcome is very relevant.”
It’s good to have a valuable reason to play.”
Jackson Emblem proved the game breaker for the Lions against Labrador last weekend, but Lake had a pretty clear warning for the floating defender.
“He’s assertive he takes a good catch, but if he chooses to fold back, he’ll have to hope we don’t use his (opposing) player.”
The two teams have had some quality battles through this year and Lake said tomorrow’s clash would be a good test for the Panthers.
“Palm Beach has been the second best side all year and it’s fitting that we play them,” he said.
“Cressa (Palm Beach coach, Daryn Cresswell) is a good coach and he always has something up his sleeve.”
The Panthers will come into the game off a bye, which could be a double-edged sword, but Lake said the biggest challenge, for coach and players, was getting through a week without a game at the end.
“This group’s fairly focused and fairly… professional in how they approach (games),”he said.
“The hardest week is training the first week when you’ve got the week off.”
“I hate it, I’ve got to watch someone else do it, while I stand and eat the hamburgers and dim sims.”
Morningside has made no changes to their final regular season team, with young defender, Ryan Johnson, unable to overcome a foot injury.
The Lions have named Bryce Perry-Bolt in their team for tomorrow’s major semi-final, with Thomas Thynne dropping down to the reserves.
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