CO-LEADERS Sandgate and the Western Magpies lock horns in yet another appetising match of the round in the Pineapple Hotel Cup at Chelmer Oval on Saturday.
Fresh from bowling over former ladder leaders Wilston-Grange last weekend, the Magpies look forward to another stern test against last year’s beaten grand finalists.
The Magpies and Sandgate share top rung on the ladder with five wins and a loss, along with Wilston-Grange, who should get back on track away to Mayne after losing for the first time last round against Mayne after losing to the Magpies last round.
Sandgate (173.5) hold a significant percentage advantage over the Grange (134.2) and the Magpies (116.9).
Elsewhere on Saturday, Palm Beach-Currumbin’s climb from the cellar should continue when they host Springwood at Salk Oval, Burleigh are at home to Maroochy-Northshore, and Coolangatta play Surfers Paradise in a Gold Coast derby at Len Peak Oval on Sunday.
Feathers to fly in battle of the big birds
By Terry Wilson
Western Magpies v Sandgate
At Chelmer Oval, 11am Saturday
WESTERN Magpies have run into a major injury and player unavailability crisis in the lead-up to the Pineapple Hotel Cup’s match of the round against Sandgate at Chelmer Oval.
According to coach Peter McConnell, the Magpies are two dozen players down on their roster, for a variety of reasons, for a match between two of the competition ladder’s co-leaders.
“We could lose 10 the Brisbane Lions and we have 13 others either unavailable or injured,” said McConnell.
But the losses at least do not include too many regular seniors, although the Magpies will be hurt by the absence of big David Hamill, Will Fozard and most likely Chris Hunt.
Skipper Chris Mihalopoulos is looking forward to the challenge of playing against Sandgate again. The last time this happened was three seasons ago before the Magpies were elevated to State League and when the Hawks were a struggling mid-ladder side.
Mihalopoulos admits he knows little about the current-day Hawks, although he played regularly against some of their senior players before the State league elevation.
“I only know about them from results, but from what I’ve seen they seem to be flying along nicely,” he said.
“hey have a number of old heads and a lot of young kids coming through.
“It’s a good mix – a bit like ourselves I guess.”
Like the Magpies, the Hawks have only a limited knowledge of what the Magpies are all about this season.
Captain-coach Ben Long has played against many of the older Magpies, but is in the dark when it comes to the many young talents at Chelmer.
“The only things I know is what I read and what I hear from other coaches,” said Long.
“A lot of their names are guys we know from when they played in our competition before going back up to state league.
“I don’t know much about their younger blokes, but from all reports they are a running side.
“So our main target is to stop them kicking a big score, because I feel we have enough forward firepower to kick a decent enough score ourselves.”
Long said it is an opportune time for the Hawks to be tested against a top-ranked side.
Taking away the round-one loss to Wilston-Grange, the Hawks have yet to play one of the flag contenders.
“We played Wilston-Grange in round one when nobody really knew what they’d be like, so this is probably the first game we’ve prepared for against one of the top sides,” said Long.
Sandgate have some good news and some bad news on the selection front.
Veteran Danny Dickfos (slight hamstring strain) and defender Michael McCoy (hip) are out, but the Hawks regain star pair, defender Aaron Fabian and midfielder Ben Drew.
“We lose a couple but get a couple of good ones back,” noted Long.
Burleigh v Maroochy-Northshore
At Bill Godfrey Oval, 2pm Saturday
A TRAINING session under former Geelong and Brisbane champion Andrew Bews may be the catalyst to spark Burleigh into action when they play Maroochy-Northshore on the Gold Coast on Saturday.
Bews, a friend of Burleigh reserves coach Shane Williams, took the Bombers’ Thursday night training and coach Zane Doubleday feels his presence and words have lifted his players.
But Doubleday has his worries, labelling Burleigh’s selection turnovers as ‘a revolving door’.
This weekend the Bombes are without injured duo Jay Allan and Jeremy Kohler as well as central defender Tim McKay, who is unavailable.
The ins are Trent Vonarx for his first seniors game for the season, veteran Peter Laenger after two best-on-grounds in the reserves, and on-baller Ben Sullivan, no relation to star forward Nathan.
Burleigh’s situation at 2-3 for the season puts them in a precarious spot as far as the finals go and Doubleday knows this.
“All we want is a four-quarter effort, so we tried a few things at training this week,” he said.
“We had Bewsy take over on Thursday night. It gave them a different voice, so the boys are fresher for a home game.
“The big focus is for the third quarter, then finishing the game out.”
Fresh from a season first win over Mayne last weekend, Maroochy have found renewed confidence, although captain David Hulsman says any match against Burleigh, no matter where the Bombers are on the ladder, is a tough one.
“It was good to get a win against Mayne and it was a pretty big night for the boys after it,” said Hulsman.
The Roos get back defender Sean McKenzie, wingman Kane Tyson after bout of food poisoning, and utility Steve Shelley.
Sadly for Shelley this will be his last game for the Roos because he is heading back to Victoria for work.
The outs for the Roos this weekend are James Colman (back to the under-18s), Matt Dimech and Harley Read.
Palm Beach-Currumbin v Springwood
At Salk Oval, 2pm Saturday
PALM Beach-Currumbin are the sleeping giants of the AFLQ’s premier division – as most rival coaches will agree with.
The Lions, beaten by the current top-three sides in their first three matches, are quickly showing signs of a rapid rise up the ladder after two huge wins over Mayne and last weekend.
This weekend it’s Springwood’s turn to face the music and there is no question the Pumas have been presented with a significant challenge.
Another win here for PBC would have the club just out of the top five, and coach Craig O’Brien is keen for his side to rack up four or five wins on the trot to get back into top-three contention.
“The good thing is we’re not complacent because we know we can’t afford to lose another game for the next three or four rounds,” he said.
“By mid-season, if turn with three losses, we can be in touch with the top three. If we turn with four losses, we’ll have trouble catching
“So we do need to keep touch with the top three.”
PBC have lost midfielder Darryl Dyson (general soreness), Ryan Hards (hamstring) and Blake Schneider (shoulder).
The elevated Leigh Clarke, a forward who kicked six tons in a row with Narre Warren and who kicked eight in the reserves last weekend.
Also into the seniors are under-18 first-gamer Nick Burton and Tom Wellington, a half-forward from Albury.
Springwood have again been hurt by injuries, the Pumas losing ruckman Tiger Mo and utility Adrian Sipple with injury, while Michael Price is omitted.
The replacements are ruckman Blake Wallis, Alan Phillips and an interesting selection in Adrian ‘Bear’ Wallin.
Wallin, a big man, was formerly with Palm Beach-Currumbin before linking with Springwood, where he is currently football manager.
Coach Paul Opbroek described this clash as just another in the learning circle the Pumas are currently experiencing.
“There are no limitations and no expectations,” he said.
Mayne v Wilston-Grange
At Everton Park, 2pm Saturday
WILSTON-Grange’s first loss of the season to Western Magpies last week has had its effect on players, according to coach David Martin.
As such, things should be back on track when the Gorillas tackle Mayne at Everton Park, especially after a week of returning to the things that worked for the first five rounds.
Martin said he has put the players through a week of doing the things the Gorillas had been so good at before their loss to the Magpies.
“The reaction to the loss has been good,” said Martin. “They were pretty disappointed, but it’s just that they lost their way a bit
“So we’ve gone back to stage one during the work. We worked on where we want to go with the football and now its matter of putting it all back together again.
“We identified a couple of areas on the ground where we want to go through if we get caught under pressure.
“Last week we started to go all over the joint, so it was hard to get numbers to the ball when nobody knows where it is going.”
Mayne player-coach Luke Faulkner is wary of a fired-up Grange after that first loss, agreeing it is going to be a challenge for the winless Tigers, coming off an away loss to Maroochy-Northshore.
“Yes, we know it’s going to be a tough battle, but we’ve trained well this week,” said Faulkner.
“We’re confident we can cause an upset – that’s if we play our style and our game plan.”
Mayne have included former PBC player Jess Henry, a friend of Mayne’s former Redland Bomber Scott Vimpany, along with Glen Ryan from Melton and Logan Bower, on permit from Morningside.
Wilston-Grange have some key losses in Hugh Campbell, Brendan McGrath, Scott Woods and Dean Warren.
In are Michael Rogers, Chris Jaenke (ex-Morningside), and, kin Martin’s words, a couple of young speedies in Josh Ubank and Tim Holt.
Rogers is the interesting inclusion. He has played only two reserves matches since a bad eye socket injury mid-way through the 2010 season when he subsequently stepped down as playing coach of the Gorillas.
Coolangatta v Surfers Paradise
At Len Peak Oval, 2pm Sunday
COOLANGATTA have made a whopping eight changes to their side for the Gold Coast derby against Surfers Paradise on Sunday.
Away from the obvious change in losing in Jason Akermanis, the Blues have lost Papua New Guineans Junior Henry and Emmaus Wartova (family reasons), Mark Greeney and Tom Thurwood (injured) and the omitted trio of Ryan McCabe, Daniel Cossar and Nathan Hillard.
But the good news is the the Blues regain quality big men Chris Carins and Brad Platt, along with John Vogau and Cam Maxwell from the reserves, as well as Andrew Haines, Darcy Fitzgerald and 18-year-old debut-makers Sam Fife and Ronan Gibson.
Fife is a nationally-ranked junior squash player and the younger brother of former PNBC wingman and current Broadbeach captain Matt.
So have so many changes caused concern in the Coolangatta camp?
No way, according to coach Neil Mackay.
“Actually I think it’s healthy because not all of them have been selection droppings.
“There are really only four selection changes, the others were forced. We’re trying to reward performance.”
Surfers are coming off the bye the week after a narrow loss to Sandgate, so expectations are high for the big derby.
The Demons have lost big man Trent McIntyre and midfielder Josh Orton, both with hamstring soreness.
Into the side are defender Mark Thompson for his first seniors game of the year, along with Brody Haberfield, who is back from a run with Gold Coast Suns in the NEAFL.
This is the first of three Gold Coast derbys for the Demons, who follow with matches against Palm Beach-Currumbin and Burleigh.
Coach Rob Martin said the mood at Small Park is good since their loss to the Magpies.
“We played good against them, it was no disgrace to lose to them by five points,” he said.
“We’ve trained well since then and we are in a good, positive mood.”
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