By Chris ‘Yeendy’ Yeend
With just three rounds remaining in the 2023 QAFL Senior Home and Away season and three games taking place this weekend, the race for the top six will go that one step closer to being finalised.
Labrador, Morningside, Palm Beach Currumbin and Maroochydore are all fighting for sixth place; a position currently occupied by Morningside on 28 points. Despite sitting in 9th position, Maroochydore is just eight points away from Morningside but has the sixth best percentage in the competition.
Labrador, Palm Beach Currumbin and Maroochydore will all hope that the hottest team outside of the top three, Surfers Paradise, does them all a favour by taking down a Morningside team that is fielding one of its strongest line-ups of the season.
When all is said and done, Morningside and Surfers Paradise holds the key to what happens in the race for the top six with so many scenarios pending on what happens with the result of this game. Could we see a draw and another twist is added to the mix?
LABRADOR v ASPLEY
Key ins – Campbell Lake, Nick Bradshaw, Luke Coombes, Mackenzie Bristow
Key outs – Jay Foon, Darcy McEldrew, Nathan Kady, Will Derrington
Nick Bradshaw returns for his second Senior game after previously playing against Morningside in Round 19 last season. Lake, Coombes and Bristow make handy inclusions but losing the likes of Jay Foon (midfield) and Darcy McEldrew (ruck) will hurt.
Key ins – Liam Dawson, Dan Joseph, Corey McGuren (Senior club debut)
Key outs – Lachlan Sherwood, Dan Henderson, Jackson Allen
Corey McGuren plays his first Senior game as a Hornet after previously playing Senior football at Mt Gravatt where he made his debut in 2014. Liam Dawson is the big name that returns from an arm injury while Dan Joseph is a handy inclusion.
If Labrador win
The Southern Tigers have the aid of the recent draw against PBC that could play a telling factor in sneaking into the top six. A win against the Hornets and if Surfers Paradise beat Morningside, will see them finish this round in sixth position. With matches against Wilston Grange and Broadbeach in the coming weeks, it has to win this contest and at the least, beat Wilston Grange to make the top six while other results must fall their way.
If Aspley win
The minor premiership is so close to being locked away. It’s not a guarantee however as it faces RVP next week and Surfers Paradise in the last game of the home and away season. Is eight points and more than 50 clear on percentage from third placed Broadbeach (bye this week); the top two is a lock.
Labrador is fighting to win with so much activity happening around it in the quest for a place in the six. Aspley is getting close to fielding its strongest team on paper and with finals just around the corner, will be eager to beat some quality opposition and build up momentum ahead of its likely clash with Redland Victoria Point; a team it faces and will desire to beat next week. This is a mini-final for the Southern Tigers, a task that might be a tad too big for them.
MORNINGSIDE v SURFERS PARADISE
Key ins – Tommy Horne, Kyle Dunkley (VFL), Wylie Buzza (VFL), Wilson Barry (VFL)
Key outs – Jay Moroney, Kai Purslow, Shaq McLeod, Jake Godwin
The Panthers benefit from the bye for the Brisbane Lions in the VFL with Dunkley and Barry returning after playing in the Q Clash last week. Buzza returns from injury against Geelong in the VFL two weeks ago and will line up in the forward line in place of Shaq McLeod who has been listed as an emergency and showcased good form this year. Jake Godwin is a big out.
Key ins – Jack Prestegar, Kain Ford
Key outs – Max Pescud, Monte Ruff
The Dees welcome back captain Jack Prestegar and fellow star Kain Ford. Max Pescud comes out of the forward line while Monte has been named as an emergency. This as a whole is a very good team, especially with Allies defender Nick Williams playing in the backline; a player that is expected to be picked up early in the 2023 National Draft. There is talent, strength and mobility across this team and aside from missing Pescud, it’s close to the best team the Dees could field.
If Morningside win
It will finish this round in sixth position. It currently sits two games and percentage behind Wilston Grange in fifth position. It could leapfrog the Gorillas should it win all three remaining games and the Gorillas go win-less. This scenario is very much possible. The Cats and Sharks await them after this week. It must win this contest to stand a chance to make finals as the following two weeks will be very turbulent, especially without access to a number of VFL stars.
If Surfers Paradise win
Fourth position is almost locked away. With Noosa at home next week and Aspley the following week, it will likely finish in fourth position and likely to face Wilston Grange in week one of the finals. The Panthers will provide a big test but the Round 21 game on the road to Aspley will be massive to see exactly where this list is at. Keep an eye on whether Southport call on Matt Doran, Max Pescud or Byron Finch over the next few weeks in the VFL which could hurt this team.
Cancel all other plans this Saturday and get out to Jack Esplen Oval. With so much riding on this game for the Panthers and taking into consideration its VFL inclusions, this has blockbuster stamped all over it. There is VFL, future AFL and former AFL talent littered all across both teams. With the Panthers needing to win to give themselves confidence against two major opponents in the remainder of the season; and with the Demons a genuine smokey for the flag – this game is massive.
MAROOCHYDORE v PALM BEACH CURRUMBIN
Key ins – Mitch Habgood, Jy Bennett, Riley Matheson
Key outs – Lukas Kangur, Lochie O’Toole, Ty Gallop
Riley Matheson returns to the Senior team for the first since the Round 19 clash with Broadbeach in 2022. Jy Bennett and Mitch Habgood both return to the team after an impressive outing against Wilston Grange in the Reserves back in Roud 17. Losing Kangar, O’Toole and Gallop does hurt.
Palm Beach Currumbin
Key ins – Zac Harrison, Christian Buykx-Smith, Liam O’Brien, Finn Hay
Key outs – Jackson Graham, Carden Skalij, Charles Elliott, Malachi Dumas
Liam O’Brien returns for his first game since Round 9 against Mt Gravatt and he joins Christian Buykx-Smith who returns to centre half forward. Harrison is a big in while Finn Hay gets his chance again after playing for the Gold Coast Academy and VFL this year.
If Maroochydore wins
The fact that this team is in 9th position with a few weeks to go and can still make finals, is quite extraordinary. Lose this week, and the dream is over if Morningside beat Surfers Paradise. Games against Mt Gravatt and Noosa in the final two weeks will be very winnable, it just needs to get through the Lions which is a super challenge. However, while it does need to beat Mt Gravatt, it needs Mt Gravatt to beat PBC on the run home to make finals, if it wins this contest.
If Palm Beach Currumbin wins
Finals is just about a lock, even though it’s coming from a few back. Labrador and Morningside will unlikely win all games on the run home. It has Sherwood at home and Mt Gravatt on the road over the next few weeks. Even a loss here and Morningside beating Surfers Paradise will still keep the dream alive. The draw against Labrador in Round 17 helps.
Both teams will field very strong line-ups, making this an enthralling contest. It will be a fast-paced game at Domino’s Park which will suit the Roos’ playing style. The Lions boast a strong midfield and have some key returns in the forward line that will cause headaches.
The key match-up will be between Maroochydore’s Sam McLachlan and PBC’s Corey Joyce. The winner of that battle will go a long way to determine the result of this contest.
Maroochydore will have just a bit too much run and scoring power and is a kick shy of being the fifth best scoring team in the competition. PBC will need to reduce its opponents to 10 goals or less to win and will kick perhaps 12 in the process (averages 73ppg).
This is such an important contest in the context of the season.