IT has been a long while since the Surfers Paradise Demons have featured in a Pineapple Hotel Cup match of the round.
But on Saturday, on home turf at Sir Bruce Small Park, the Demons tackle 2010 champions Noosa.
by Terry Wilson
Surfers Paradise v Noosa
At Sir Bruce Small Park, 2pm Saturday
SURFERS Paradise embark on a testing three-week campaign when they host last year’s premiers Noosa in the match of the round at Sir Bruce Small Park on Saturday.
Unbeaten after two rounds, the Demons play Noosa, Sandgate (away) and the Western Magpies (home) in the space of three weeks – a schedule that will surely give coach Rob Martin and his players a strong indication of whether they have what it takes to match it with the best.
Asked about the atmosphere at a club sitting on top of the ladder, Martin put things in perspective when he said his side has yet to prove itself against a genuine flag contender.
“Look at Noosa, they’ve beaten Palm Beach-Currumbin and they’ve beaten Burleigh so far,” said Martin.
“Noosa was the best side last year, so we’ll soon know where we’re at.
“We’re looking forward to playing the best side. We think we’ve improved, but we’ll soon find out, won’t we because after Noosa we’ve got Sandgate and Palm Beach.”
Martin believes his side has improved 10 to 15 per cent on last year – but on season results only at the moment.
“That’s ability-wise,” he said. “But we haven’t played the best sides yet.”
Martin agreed stability in playing personnel, particularly in defence, has been a key factor thus far.
This is unlike in the early stages last year when the Demons underwent significant player changes each weekend.
Surfers have only one change this weekend, losing Trent Arthur, who has had dental surgery.
Into the Surfers side is former junior Fraser Pope, who has had stints with Southport, Coburg in the VFL and Melbourne suburban league side Montrose.
The Noosa camp, especially coach Wayne Fletcher, is wary of the trip down to the Gold Coast.
This is because the Tigers fell by 24 points at Small Park in 2009.
“But even last year they gave us a run for our money and we just got over the line,” said Fletcher.
“It’s always a tough gig down there – and obviously they’ve got confidence up after two wins.”
The Tigers had to make two changes after injuries to ruckman Billy Daugalis (shoulder) and half-back Nathan Winter (knee).
They brought in back-up ruckman Andrew Coates for his first seniors game in Tiger colours, as well as Troy Duke, who can play a variety of key positions.
Burleigh v Western Magpies
At Bill Godfrey Oval, 2pm Saturday
BURLEIGH will need to dig deep into their reserves of pace to come away with the points from a clash with the Western Magpies on the Gold Coast.
Coach Zane Doubleday has no doubt that run, run, run s the order of the day if his side is to match it with the Magpies, who have impressed all and sundry since their return to the AFLQ Premier Division from the old QAFL.
“In the little bit I saw of them in the pre-season they ran the ball very well,” he said. “So we have to make sure we match them in intensity – to go with them.
“It’ll be a tough game for us.”
Doubleday is not surprised the Magpies have started life back in the Pineapple Hotel Cup with successive wins after two winless seasons in State League.
“They’ve had a couple of years at the top level and have probably retained about 80 per cent of that group,” said Doubleday.
“Even though they got belted each week they were still playing every week against quality opposition.”
The Bombers have brought in a couple of selection surprises from left field to cover for the omissions of Aaron Pianta, Jay Allan, Andrew Saladino, Tom Newton and Brodie Vick.
The ‘ins’ are Nathan Sullivan, Beau Davies, Matt Deidrich , Oliver Rennie and Brad Payne.
Davies is a tall former Mudgeeraba junior while Rennie and Payne have backgrounds in other sports.
Rennie is a national wakeboarding champion while Payne is a former AIS cyclist who has been playing reserve grade with the Bombers.
“We’ve given him a go because of his fitness,” said Coach Zane Doubleday, stressing the need to have plenty of run in his side to match it with the flighty Magpies.
Selectors had a busy time at the Magpies this week and came up with 10 changes, most forced by the call-up of youngsters to the Brisbane Lions reserve grade side.
The key outs this weekend are Billy Moorhead, Greg Lavey, Will Fozard and Scott Clarke.
“Our average age has dropped a year this week, down to 23 from 24,” noted Magpies coach Peter McClennan.
“We’ve promoted a couple of young guys who have showed something in reserves.’
Included in this department are Brodie Thomas and Lachlan Woods-Honour.
The mass changes will stretch the Magpies’ depth, but McClennan is confident the club has the artillery to cover.
And, despite two impressive wins to start the season – including the last round against Palm Beach-Currumbin – McClennan is not going to underestimate any opponent.
“The approach we’re taking is that we respect every team,” he said.
Maroochy-Northshore v Wilston-Grange
At Fisherman’s Road, 2pm Saturday
MAROOCHY-Northshore have again been forced to abandon their main oval and switch their clash against Wilston-Grange to an adjoining oval at Fisherman’ Road on Saturday.
The waterlogged main oval is just not right for play – and has not been right for two months – leaving Maroochy players and coach Roger Delaney a frustrated group.
“Luckily we have three ovals at Fisherman’s Road and the one we’re using is not too bad,” he said.
The Roos, so savagely ravaged of talent during the off-season, still have key trio James Page, Jesse Goldfinch and Brad Dolley to come back, so will do well to prevent Wilston-grange from making it three out of three to start the season.
“But it is exciting for us that we have three under-18s making their seniors debuts this weekend,” said Delaney.
The trio are Damien Chapman, Griffin Douglas and ex-Noosa junior Cam McCabe.
The Gorillas are the opposite, with virtually a full list to pick from for a game special to stalwart Scott Wood.
Wood will be playing his 100th seniors game in the red, white and blue and coach David Martin paid tribute to a loyal servant.
“He’s a local junior who made his debut in 2003 as a 17-year-old and is now current vice-captain,” said Martin.
“He’s Wilston-Grange through and through and that’s the beauty of it – to get these who want to play for the love of the club.”
The Gorillas welcome back ex-Morningside and Brisbane-listed defender Matt Pardew and they promoted ex-Aspley player, wingman Ryan McGaughy for his first seniors game of the season.
Out are Brendan McGrath and Trevin Erichsen.
Martin said, that with some tough games coming up, his players will be working on their stoppage clearances and delivery to the forwards.
Mayne v Sandgate
At Everton Park, 2pm Saturday
SANDGATE have several concerns heading into a north Brisbane derby match-up with Mayne at Everton Park on Saturday.
Whether or not they would take such action for a clash against a power side is debatable, the Hawks decided to drop Brendan Forbes and Damien Garton for disciplinary reasons, albeit if they were only minor indiscretions according to player-coach Ben Long.
The Hawks have also lost smart forward find Shane Etherton on-baller Matt Nuss and Luke Reynolds for the trip across town.
Etherton will be kicking goals on his honeymoon, Nuss has work in Darwin and Reynolds has State under-18 duties.
“We have put a couple of things in place that have to be followed,” said Long of the Sandgate goings-on.
“It is nothing serious but if we want to win a premiership we have to make sure they are adhered to.”
Over at Mayne, where player-coach Luke Faulkner expects a reasonable playing surface at Everton Park, the Tigers announced five inclusions.
They elevated Daniel Weller, Matt Jones, Victorian recruit Damien Doolan, Glenn Sypott and Sam Gardiner for the Hawks engagement.
Weller’s return is interesting because he announced his retirement from the game following last year’s final fixture.
Coolangatta v Springwood
At Len Peak Oval, 1pm Sunday
THE Blues will be in the pink on Saturday when Coolangatta host Springwood in a cancer fund-raiser at Peak Oval.
And, naturally, coach Neil McKay is hoping the change of colour will result in his side’s first win of the season after they fell away to Wilston-Grange in their only match of the season to date.
“It’s a big day for us,” said McKay. “It’s our first game at home, we have the big pink day and at the moment we’re nil and one for the season.
“If we can win this one we’ll be one and one and be back in the competition.”
The Blues get two of their Papua New Guinea contingent – Ali Pinda and Junior Henry – back in action, as well as Blake Ebsworth, who has returned from overseas.
“It stiffens our defence a bit with more stability,” said McKay of the changes.
Coolangatta lost Nathan Millard (family commitments), the unavailable Andrew Haines and Ryan McCabe is in the reserves.
Springwood, who have lost their opening two matches and are desperate for a turnaround in fortunes, named two first-gamers in their side.
Defender Grant Jobson and full-forward Tom Russell will be making their seniors debuts and the Pumas also promoted centre half-back Chris Venerman, tall forward Adrian Sipple , utility Clayton Barnes and on-baller Damien Hewitt.
They are in for Luke Ruf, Adam Wolbers, Jake McGill and Michael Grose, the latter a significant loss for Springwood, who rate him among their top three players.
Football manager Adrian Wallin said it is getting to the now-or-never stage for the Pumas.
“We did not expect the extent of the loss we copped at Sandgate, but if we can re-live the performance of the first week we should have a fair chance against Coolangatta.”
for full team lists click here