Community footy writer, Beth Newman, runs her eyes over the QAFL competition as it hits halfway.
Mid-season Ladder prediction
2. Palm Beach
5. Surfers Paradise
6. Mt Gravatt
7. Western Magpies
8. Wilston Grange
Prediction: Third. The Cats have well and truly emerged from under the radar in which they were clocked through pre-season, have shown they can more than mix it with the top teams, and will continue to improve. When they run and carry the ball they are one of the most damaging sides in the competition. They are yet to prove that they are a real flag threat, though, with their two losses coming to Morningside and Palm Beach.
Most Important Player: Taylor Haley
The experienced forward is a strong rudder for the Cats this season. They are a relatively even team, but Haley, in a return to some of his best footy, has been their key player this year. He’s kicked goals every game, including bags of five, six and seven, and is the focal point up in attack.
The key to their second half: Winning pivotal games. The Cats win the games they should, but their eyes will be focused on pinching a win over Palm Beach or Morningside in the back half, to put themselves right in the mix for September glory.
Prediction: Fourth. One of the flag favourites at the start of the season, the Tigers have been cruelled by injury and that has cost them some points and some percentage. Their depth has been admirable, but the strain of that toll is starting to show.
Most Important Player: Ryan Davey
Their fearless leader and gun midfielder, Davey is by the most important player for Labrador. He can, and has, changed games off his own boot. He is one of the best player in the QAFL, no doubt, but it’s his leadership that makes him so crucial. Revered by teammates and opposition, Davey’s commitment and passion to the team shows every week.
The key: Staying healthy.
Injury lists create the most agonising ‘what if?’ questions in football, and Labrador has seen that first hand. The next month will see a handful of their wounded warriors returning and they should be hitting full pace at exactly the right time, if everything goes to plan. With their full list, they’re a premiership contender.
Prediction: First. Unbeaten to the halfway point, it’s hard to see them losing a game this year. They’re the most complete team and have very strong depth.
Most Important Player: Matt Logan
Logan is playing the best footy of his life and is criminally underrated among some of the competition’s big names. This might seem incongruous with my Grogan Medal tip, but Logan has been absolutely vital for the Panthers this year, among their usual suspects.
The key: No egos.
An unbeaten season is so rare in football, and we’ve all seen favourites fall by the wayside, as they succumb to a bout of hubris. The Panthers, who were tagged as the top team early, have had to manage that for the whole season so far, but they have shown some flaws of late. As long as they keep their eyes on the short term, their favouritism is warranted. But they’d be stupid to count their chickens before they hatch.
Prediction: Sixth. The Vultures have built into their season very well so far. They will be in the mix for finals and I think fighting it out with Surfers Paradise for that last spot.
Most Important Player: Mitch Hart
He might not get the most touches or steal the spotlight, but the Vultures fullback has lead its defence to the third-least points conceded for the season. He’s doing his job and he’s doing it very well.
The key: Timing
After an up and down start to the year, the Vultures are finding their feet. At this point, it looks like they’re on track for finals. With a couple of key players, in Jayden Crawley and Troy Rogers, still to return to their side, they have more upside. They need to come good at the business end of the season, and that’s how they’re shaping up at the moment.
Prediction: Second. I think Palm Beach is the second-best team in the competition. They were not far off Morningside when they faced off in Round three and at Salk Oval in two and a half weeks’ time, they are more than a chance.
Most Important Player: Matt Derrick
Palm Beach’s most damaging asset is its punishing half back line, and the lesser-lauded Derrick brother has been its form player this season. He doesn’t attract the spotlight, but Derrick is ultra reliable, and has transformed from a fringe player in the past, to a game changer in 2014.
The key: Harden the ruck up
Palm Beach are strong across the ground, but the ruck is an area where they have been beaten regularly this year. They’ve been struck a bit by injury in this regard and have thrown a few guys in there. That was a big difference against the Panthers, but if the Lions can close the gap in their big men, that will certainly boost their flag chances.
Prediction: Ninth. With only one win to the halfway point of the year, I find it hard to see them getting much further up the ladder. They’ve battled hard in every match, but struggled to convert that into points.
Most Important Player: Corbin Dickfos
He’s only 20, but Dickfos has really come into his own this season. Playing more of a midfield role than in the past, he epitomises the character of the Hawks team. With the ability to go forward and kick goals, he has a number of handy weapons in his arsenal.
The key: Transform effort into wins
No opposition takes the Hawks lightly, with their relentless pressure and incredible work rate, but they have only managed to take that one win away to the halfway point of the season. Part of that is not converting opportunities and part of it is experience. Ultimately, though, they need reward for effort. It can’t be fun being so close every week. The Hawks will be the wildcard of the back half of the season, with nothing to lose.
Prediction: Fifth. Surfers Paradise is in a similar boat to Mt Gravatt, just keeping in touch with the top end. They’re my smoky for finals, but they will need a consistent line up to get there.
Most Important Player: Ben Merrett
With five straight games in the QAFL, Southport-listed Ben Merrett has become a rock for the Demons. Back at his junior club, the key position player has slotted in with ease. If he keeps up this form ,the Demons may not see too much more of him, but for now he’s more than handy for their side.
The key: Stability
Surfers Paradise is one of the teams that has been heavily affected by NEAFL and U18 shuffling each week, with players in and out of the Southport, SUNS reserves and state U18 sides. When they have had those players in, they are a finals-worthy side, but weekly changes will hurt any club. It’s largely out of their control, but maintaining a stable 22 is vital for them.
Prediction: 10th. I can’t see UQ pulling off too many upsets in the back half of the year or leapfrogging anyone. They have improved in plenty of ways, but it will look like a tough year on the ladder.
Most Important Player: Al Carlson
They’ve played him across the park this season, but Carlson has most recently taken charge in the midfield. The veteran has a cool head and brings a vital dose of experience to the Red Lions side.
The key: Keep on keeping on.
They’re a developing team and this is one step towards that longer-term future. All they need to do is continue on that path. They’ve already come a considerable way from the start of the season and if he Red Lions keep their improvement up, they could certainly pinch a win somewhere along the line.
Most Important Player: Seventh. They have shown some glimpses but there are a few games where they simply haven’t been good enough for long enough and that will likely come back to haunt them, as the final ladder positions are sorted.
MVP: Chris Hunt
The running half back has been super dangerous for the Magpies this year. Consistent in some of their disappointing losses and game changing in their wins, Hunt provides a damaging option off their defensive line.
The key: Four quarter footy
The Magpies are a true threat at the peak of their powers, but they haven’t shown it enough. Switching off for a quarter here, five minutes there, has cost them matches. Glenn Humphrey has lamented this through the season and it’s a fatal flaw they need to resurrect.
Prediction: Eighth. The Gorillas could be a big mover from here, but it will be hard for really make an impact on the ladder.
Most Important Player: Matt Trewhella
Trewhella has been the ultimate swingman this season, a doorstop at either end of the ground. He has been a force for the Gorillas again and his influence on and off the field is invaluable.
The key: Support acts to lift
There’s no doubting the talent of Trewhella and Gorillas captain, Steve Brittain, but the Gorillas depend on them too much. For them to notch some more wins, they need to lift across the board. Wilston Grange reaped the rewards of that more holistic performance against UQ, and it’s the key to improving as they edge closer to the end of the season.