QAFL Seniors: Elimination Final Preview

Submitted by Chris Yeend. 

Recent Form
Earlier this year, the Sharks were the team that could potentially de-throne the Cats from their premiership title defense. Fast-track to the back half of the season, it lost three games in a row to premiership contenders Broadbeach, Labrador and Aspley. They accounted for Mt Gravatt pretty comfortably in Round 20 and had to fight hard to edge out Maroochydore last week. The 2-3 record isn’t the best for a team eager to challenge for the title, more so loses against three top teams.

Noosa; the team that didn’t win a single game in its first season in the QAFL in 2021; is going to play finals. After an incredible start to the season, including pushing reigning premiers Broadbeach to three-goals in Round 1; it was dynamic until a mid-season slump and then has recovered solidly in recent weeks. After a hat-trick of losses mid-season to the Tigers, Panthers and Pies that should have been three wins; to recover with a 2-2-1 record from its last five games isn’t too bad. The six-point loss to PBC in Round 18 hurt and it challenge Labrador in a big way last week.

Players to watch
Redland Victoria Point
Caleb Franks – another 30+ disposal game last week in a monster display against the Roos.
Adrian Williams – is one of the best backmen in the competition. Rebounds well and directs traffic further up the field.
Matt Hammelmann – he is the best forward in this competition with 82 goals. Was on track mid-season to reach the century mark, but will be tough to stop.

Riley Buntain – terrific rebounder across half back and a brilliant all-round defender. Great in the air with the spoil and even at contested marking. May get the job on Hammelmann.
Aaron Laskey – the captain oozes class and is so creative with his ability to get the ball out of traffic and set up his team mates. Had 31 touches on the weekend; he’s a star.
Thomas Baulch – is one of the must-see players in the competition. Another 30 + touches last week and one of the hardest workers in the competition. He is electric.

How will the game be won

Redland Victoria Point has the best midfield in the competition. Rolls, Franks and Brock Aston team up better than any trio in the competition in the engine room. If one or two of these two can be shut down, Noosa is a big chance to win this one. RVP’s losses came when the trio didn’t have a combined influence on the game.

Noosa will also rely on its energy and adrenaline from half back to burst forward. Once that goes, RVP can get the upper hand.

Who will win and why
Redland-Victoria Point boasts arguably the most stars of a single team in the competition. Its top 10 is better than the top 10 of any other team in terms of talent; but if a few are shut down, the others can go quiet. The romance of Noosa finishing bottom one year and playing deep into finals the next is super strong, but it won’t be their year, yet. Its ability against the top sides isn’t proven in the wins’ column. It competes, but this is finals, it must win. If it does, it will be highly memorable.

RVP at its best is the second best challenger for the title behind Broadbeach and it continues that form with a win here.

Recent Form
After its Round 13 after-the-siren loss to Broadbeach, and its Round 17 loss to Aspley, Labrador has played some outstanding football to cruise through to four consecutive wins to close out the home and away season including three gutsy wins over top six teams RVP, PBC and Noosa. The 130-point win over Morningside in Round 19 was clinical and showed against the lower teams that it can really put them away.

Labrador has been the form team of the last month just with the type of wins and the quality of opposition. There is a lot to like here.

How good was it for the QAFL and Palm Beach Currumbin to have Liam Jones playing? He was a class above the rest. Since his departure from the team to prepare for the AFL, the Lions have gone on a tear as they’ve won four of five games. Wins over Maroochydore and Noosa were important and a tough loss to Labrador showed fight in this team.

There is so much to like about the unity of this group and the ability to fight hard in every contest.

Players to watch
Bryce Retzlaff – he is one of the most important players in the competition. A star on the wing this year, he has been dominant and can swing forward in a role he is most comfortable in to kick a match winning score. He averages more than 20 touches a game and has a quality engine.
Lachlan Henderson – since retiring from the top level, he has been outstanding across the backline and setting up play further up the field. Great in the air and better on the ground, he oozes class. Had 24 touches last week.
Jay Foon – explosive, hard hitting and damaging through the midfield. Laid 10 tackles last week and doesn’t need a lot of the footy to have an impact.

Palm Beach Currumbin
Tommy Thynne – wins lots of the ball, clearances and contested possessions. A star midfielder who has been outstanding for this group all season.
Malachi Dumas – had just six kicks last week but kicked 3.3. You don’t ask for much more than that from a small forward. He is really quick and has a quality impact. He isn’t one of the big stars of the team but he does his job really well.
Liam O’Brien – loves winning the contested ball and finding space. Regularly gets over 20 touches each week and just finds space where there is none. A smart footballer.

How will the game be won
Labrador will be dynamic in the air. With some good height up forward and with the emergence of Buykx-Smith in the back half of the season; it will be tough for PBC to stop. With Henderson down back; Retzlaff in the midfield; Turner and Goldsmith up forward; that’s a lot of height for PBC to shut down. Will Bella needs to play out of his socks.

Who will win and why
Labrador’s run in the back half of the season has been outstanding. That come from behind win over Noosa mid-season just spurred this group on to play a better brand of football and surge from outside the top six into a genuine flag contender.  

Picture by High Flyer Images. 

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