By Terry Wilson
Photo: Darren Sonnenberg
THE pressure is on in one of the biggest rounds of QAFL fixtures for years on Saturday when all four matches have something hanging on the results.
Heading the program is the battle for outright second on the ladder between Broadbeach and Mt Gravatt.
Then there is the clash between Morningside and Palm Beach Currumbin when Morningside need the four points to stay in the finals race.
Down on the Gold Coast Surfers Paradise are away to Labrador where the Demons could end the Tigers’ finals hope with a win that would help them significantly to keep a place in the top five.
Then there is the battle for the wooden spoon when Wilston Grange and Sandgate, both with one win apiece, do battle.
Broadbeach v Mt Gravatt
At Subaru Oval, 2pm
Ins: Tom Betson, Kai Sheers, Rob Blood.
Outs: Nick Burton (groin), Shawn Watson (Southport NEAFL), Jake Strong (omitted).
Ins: Jayden Crawley, Nate Morgan, Harry Taylor, Matt Pearce, Tom Ansell, Domenic McEwan.
Outs: Rhys Estall (foot), Jarrod Huddy (Redlands NEAFL), Dominic Nash (back), Jasper Craven (Aspley NEAFL), Jesse Green (calf), Joel Leahy (foot).
MT Gravatt continue to hold down a share of second spot on the ladder but if you consider the number of changes the Vultures have had this season you would wonder how they’ve managed it.
The Vultures have a crunch match away to Broadbeach at Subaru Oval on Saturday with the Cats level on points with the visitors but with a percentage of 154.72 compared to 99.51.
This in itself could be a stumbling block for Mt Gravatt as the finals near yet they are still in the finals race right up to their ears.
This is after using more than 40 players in senior grade thus far.
And it is also worth noting that there are 11 changes to the Mt Gravatt side that beat Broadbeach by seven points in the fourth round. The Cats have six changes by comparison.
“We have ticked over 45 players in senior grade this year, tnat’s in 11 games,” Vultures coach Daniel Webster said.
“With all the injuries and the NEAFL it’s not easy.
“Even this week we have made six changes, all of them forced.”
The Vultures have lost key players in Rhys Estall (foot injury) and NEAFL pair Jarrod Huddy (Redland) and Jasper Craven (Aspley).
Broadbeach have also been forced into some changes, losing Nick Burton (groin) and ruckman Shawn Watson (Southport NEAFL) among three changes for such a crunch fixture.
“This could be the clincher for second spot,” Cats coach Brett Andrews said
“The competition is so even that if we lose this week we’ll be playing Surfers for fourth spot next weekend. So it’s a big game.
“We were poor last week (against Morningside) and luckily for us Mt Gravatt got rolled as well.
“So we’re looking to rectify that. We’re at home and you’ve really got to win these home games.
“We haven’t been playing all that well so we need to find a way this week.”
His rival Webster admitted he is concerned with the way the Vultures have gone away from their game plan and that they need to find it back quickly.
“Unfortunately we lose a lot of experience this week,” he said.Rd13 - Cats v Vultures_
Morningside v Palm Beach Currumbin
At Jack Esplen Oval, 2pm
Ins: Will Wolbers, Sam Lundie-Jenkins, Ryan Dadds .
Outs: Matt Logan (knee), Nathan Kinch (ankle), Brad Hodge (omitted).
Palm Beach Currumbin:
Ins: Jackson Emblem, Josh Woolley, Liam McNeven, Ashton Crossley, Jaydan Verdoorn, Jesse Beame.
Outs: Jarryd Douglas (concussion), Nathan Robertson (ankle), Brock Askey (concussion), Callum McBurnie (general soreness), Dirk Koenen (Suns NEAFL), Ben Denton (back).
The last time they met: Palm Beach Currumbin 14.15 (99) d Morningside 8.10 (58), Round 8 at Salk Oval.
MORNINGSIDE are set to throw a three-pronged big man forward setup on premiers Palm Beach in a blockbuster clash at Jack Esplen Oval.
In ruckmen/forwards Kent Abey, Will Wolbers and Alex Mitchell, the Panthers have a huge height advantage over their rivals and coach Steve Wildschut hinted at using the tall timber in the attacking zones as well as the ruck to stretch the much smaller Lions.
This is a clash between the unbeaten premiers and sixth-placed Morningside and really is a litmus test for the big improvers Morningside.
“I’d like to think we can stretch them down forward with (Kent) Abey, Wolbers and Mitchell,” Wildschut said of his big men, a group that also includes stand-in captain Peter Mollison.
Wolbers is back from Aspley NEAFL duties although the Panthers have two major losses in co-captains Matt Logan (knee) and Nathan Kinch (ankle).
Wildschut does not need to be reminded of how vial every win and loss is going to be in the race to the top five.
“I think the five will change every week from here until the last round, there’s a lot of meaning in every game,” Wildschut said.
Over in the PBC camp, the champions have made six changes, including the loss of key forward Jaryd Douglas, gun young defender Dirk Koenan, rover Brock Askey and goalsneak Nathan Robertson, all injured.
But they regain quality in Josh Woolley, defenders Jackson Emblem and Liam McNeven and promising colt Ashton Crossley.
Also into the side for his seniors debut is Jesse Beame, a PBC junior.
Coach Chad Owens knows his side faces a significant disadvantage in size but that is an area that has been able to be covered so far this year.
“Every team we’ve played this year has had a height advantage,” Owens said.
Asked about the possibility of PBC slipping in to the comfort zone, being ahead of their closest ladder rivals by 12 points, Owens said: “I’m not worrying about this game any more than any other game.
“We always say that if you’re off a bit you lose, don’t you. Every team we play for the rest of the year is potential top five, so that can all change pretty quickly.”Rd13 - Panthers v Lions
Labrador v Surfers Paradise
At Cooke-Murphy Oval, 2pm
Ins: Adam Clarke, Joel Stevenson, Lachie Davidson, Zac Browne, Matt Johnson, Ryan Gilmore, Stephen Eilola.
Outs: Matt Daniel (concussion), Rhys Coombe (knee), Zac Brain (knee), Brendon Gibbs (arm), Andy Hollis (hip), Tom Thorsen (hamstring), Corey Mullins (omit).
Ins: Rene Lefeuvre.
Outs: Jack Taylor (ankle).
Last time they met: Surfers Paradise 9.19 (73) d Labrador 8.9 (57), Round 1 at Sir Bruce Small Park.
SURFERS Paradise are looking to smash a 30-year jinx when they venture across town for a Gold Coast derby against Labrador at Cooke-Murphy Oval.
Not since 1996 have the Demons beaten the Tigers at the venue, nor have they beaten the Tigers twice in the same season since 1993.
It must be pointed out that the clubs played in separate competitions from 1997 to 2014 following the restructuring of the QAFL/NEAFL competitions.
But the Cooke-Murphy ground bogy remains, on top of the fact the Dees are still chasing those elusive dual wins in a season.
This is a clash between fourth (Surfers) and seventh (Labrador) on the ladder and a win would go a long way to keeping Surfers right in the mix for a finals berth.
At the same time a loss would just about kill off Labrador’s top-five hopes with the Tigers sitting eight points out of the five.
And the irony is that a Surfers victory could be the nail in the coffin of the club where Surfers coach Brad Moore was at the helm in 2012 and half-way through 2013.
Despite events of 2013, when Moore departed Labrador mid-season after being told he would not have the coaching role the following year, the Demons boss insists there is no personal agenda, as in killing off Labrador’s fading finals hopes.
“That’s the least of my concerns, I’m more concerned with Surfers Paradise and cementing a place in the top five,” Moore said.
“It’s a big game for us. There are a few things to tick off, like cementing our spot in the top five and to knock off Labrador twice in a season.”
While selection time was pretty take at Surfers this week – the Demons have only one change to the side that beat Sandgate last round – the Tigers remain in the wars with seven forced changes for such a key clash.
Key losses for the Tigers are defender Matt Daniel (concussion), midfielder Tom Thorsen (hamstring), half-forward Zac Brain (knee) and ruckman Andy Hollis (hip).
But a surprise has been the naming of skipper Bryce Retzlaff. The big forward was taken to hospital last weekend after copping a head knock.
Labrador football manager Peter Young said Retzlaff has been given the medical green light after a slight concussion.
The Tigers regain Adam Clarke and they named ruckman Joel Stevenson, a former Southport and Surfers player.
Ryan Gilmore, a Hermit Park (Townsville) product, will play his first seniors game alongside another new face Stephen Eiola, from Gladstone.Rd13 - Tigers v Demons_
Wilston Grange v Sandgate
At Bendigo Bank Oval, 2pm
This match will be livestreamed at aflq.com.au.
Ins: Alex Chapman, Joey Daye, Fletcher McIvor, Jack Lipscombe, Declan Warren.
Outs: Angus O’Brien (omit), Nick Dickson (rested), Jordy McDonald (omit), Kale Ross (ill), Jacob VanderWal (ill).
Ins: Aaron Fabian, Toroa Marango.
Outs: Not provided.
The last time they met: Wilston Grange 13.13 (91) d Sandgate 10.11 (71), Round 1 at Lemke Road Oval.
THE sheer rivalry of northern Brisbane clubs Wilston Grange and Sandgate ensures the heat will be on with the dubious honour of avoiding the QAFL wooden spoon as the priority at Bendigo Bank Oval.
There is still plenty of water to pass under the bridge until the season ends for these two clubs but it seems the loser will end up with the dreaded spoon.
Ladder positions aside, there is plenty of feeling between the Gorillas and the Hawks and Grange coach Nathan Clarke knows it will be a tough day at the office.
“They’ll be gunning for us because whoever loses more than not should finish bottom,” Clarke said.
“But we’d like to think we can pinch a couple of wins on the way home.”
For Sandgate, the Hawks included two new faces to the side that went down to Surfers Paradise last weekend.
The experience factor is there in Aaron Fabian while youngster Toara Marango is back from the Brisbane Lions NEAFL side.
Wilston Grange have five changes, including the return of forward Joey Daye, hard-at-it Fletcher McIvor and Declan Warren.
“We do look stronger on paper,” Clarke said of his side.
“We have more experience back which is always helpful and we look like we’re getting back towards some semblance of a seniors side.”
Then protagonists have recorded one win each this year, with the Grange downing the Hawks by 20 points at Lemke Road Oval the first time around.
The Hawks’ solitary success of 2018 was the shock 12-point win over Morningside in the fifth round.
That result, in itself, proves that the young Hawks can be competitive against any side, although their inconsistency has brought them under far too often this year.
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