By Peter Blucher
What is your favorite sporting rivalry?
In a week in which Australia beat England to get a jump start in the cricket Ashes, one of the truly great international sporting rivalries, it is an intriguing question.
Historically, there has been Carlton v Collingwood in the AFL, Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal on the tennis court, Holden v Ford at Bathhurst, Alain Prost against Ayrton Senna in Formula 1, perhaps the famous chess rivalry between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky, and even the old NBA stoushes between the Los Angeles Laker the Boston Celtics of their heyday.
Parochial AFL fans, too, will admit the rugby league State of Origin battle between Queensland and New South Wales is big.
But locally there is nothing like the AFL rivalry between the Brisbane Lions and the Gold Coast Suns.
Tomorrow afternoon at the Gabba it will Q-Clash #18. Brisbane, on a seven-game winning streak and third on the ladder, will host the Suns, who have lost 12 in a row and sit at the bottom of the ladder.
But still it’s a game that all in south-east Queensland will look forward to. And still amid the pre-game excitement is the chilling reality …. Always expect the unexpected in a Q-Clash.
Tomorrow Suns key defender Caleb Graham can expect a baptism of fire as he becomes the 16th player to make his debut in a Q-Clash.
The 18-year-old Cairns product and Suns Academy graduate will get his chance after Suns coach Stuart Dew took a hard line at selection, dumping the highly-rated Jack Martin and Peter Wright.
Martin and Wright were replaced by Graham and fellow Cairns junior Jacob Heron.
This will make for a record four players from Cairns in the Gold Coast side as they join Jarrod Harbrow and Jack Bowes.
The Lions have announced an unchanged side although all eyes will be on the final team announcement shortly before the first bounce tomorrow to see if skipper Dayne Zorko takes his place after finishing last week’s clash with the Western Bulldogs on the interchange with a minor hamstring problem.
Graham, chosen with selection #71 by the Suns in last year’s AFL National Draft, was rewarded for a string of solid form in the NEAFL in recent weeks.
He joins a list of Q-Clash debutants that started with Brisbane’s Bryce Retzlaff and Gold Coast’s Tom Lynch, Sam Day and Joey Day in Q-Clash 1 in 2011.
Since then players to get their first taste of AFL football in a Q-Clash in chronological order have been Brisbane’s Jack Crisp (Q-Clash #3) and Sam Mayes (QC5) , Gold Coast’s Louis Herbert (QC8), Josh Glenn and Henry Schade (QC9), Brisbane’s Billy Evans (QC10), and Reuben William (QC12), Gold Coast’s Ben Ainsworth and Bowes (QC13), and then Brisbane’s Noah Answerth and Gold Coast’s Josh Corbett, who debuted in Q-Clash #17 earlier this year.
Graham, who moved to the tourist strip and finished his schooling at Palm Beach-Currumbin High School to help further his football aspirations, will be one of seven Queenslanders in the Gold Coast side and 11 Queenslanders in Q-Clash #18.
The record for most Queenslanders in a Q-Clash is 12. This was set in both games last year.
Five players from Q-Clash #1 in 2011 will play tomorrow, including one who has switched sides.
Pearce Hanley, who opened the rivalry in Brisbane colors, will wear the Suns’ red and yellow against his former club along captain David Swallow, ex-Lion Michael Rischitelli and Jarrod Harbrow, who also played in Q-Clash #1.
The only member of the Brisbane side in Q-Clash #1 who will play for Brisbane tomorrow is Daniel Rich,
Harbrow, the Suns’ games record-holder, also holds the record for most Q-Clash appearances. He will play his 17th Q-Clash tomorrow, while Zorko is set for his 15th, and Hanley and Rich their 14th. Swallow and Rischitelli will play their 13th.
Set for their first Q-Clash tomorrow alongside Graham will be the Suns’ Burgess, Ashley Miles and Ben King, and Brisbane’s Marcus Adams.
In other AFL selection news for Round 21 of the Toyota AFL premiership, two Queenslanders who have had their ups and downs at selection this year have retained their positions as the vital run to the finals continues.
Zac Smith will play his third game in a row back in the Geelong side as they take on North Melbourne in Geelong tomorrow.
And Lachie Keeffe will play his fourth game in row for the Giants against Hawthorn in Canberra tonight.
Not such good news was Brayden Preuss’ omission from Melbourne side.