by Beth Newman
With four weeks left in the regular season, there’s still plenty up for grabs in the QAFL.
We had a look at each club’s draw heading into the business end of the season and rated the difficulty, with each club given a ranking between 10 and 1 based on their ladder position (10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest) and one point for an away game.
The higher the score, the more difficult the draw.
So, who really has the toughest run home?
Broadbeach (H), Palm Beach (A), Mt Gravatt (H), Surfers Paradise (H) – 29
It’s been a difficult year for Sandgate and their run home does not give them a reprieve, with three top five sides and their next best competition. Three games at home will probably help their chances, but it’s hard to see them getting a win from the last month of regular games.
What they want out of the final month: rebound.
Sandgate need to regroup and ready themselves for 2015. Development and improvement is the key for them.
OUR TIP: L,L,L,L
2. Western Magpies
University of Queensland (A), Broadbeach (A), Labrador (H), Morningside (H) – 29
The Magpies’ run home gets progressively more difficult each week. They’ll go in favourites to this weekend’s match with UQ, but will be hard pressed to snatch a win from their final three weeks.
What they want out of the final month: An upset. The Magpies are unlikely to make finals, even if they win every game from here on out, but they can certainly have a major say in the shape of finals, if they can pull an upset, against Broadbeach or Labrador.
OUR TIP: W, L, L, L
3. Surfers Paradise
Labrador (A), Morningside (A), Wilston grange (A), Sandgate (A)- 27
Surfers Paradise is the only team with four games away from home to finish their season, but they’ve been reasonable on the road this year, so it probably won’t be too much of an issue. This weekend’s match with Labrador is the crucial one. If they can snag a win from this one, then they give themselves the best chance of making it. They will likely be favourites against Grange and Sandgate, but will find it tough at Jack Esplen Oval against the Panthers.
What they want out of the final month: Fifth spot.
Surfer Paradise win this weekend and they can practically taste that finals chance. They’ve built through the season and taken opportunities where others have let them slip.
OUR TIP: L, L, W, W
Western Magpies (H), Labrador (A), Morningside (A), Wilston Grange (H) – 26
UQ’s final four matches are bookended with clashes which loom as certainly gettable, particularly at their home ground. They’ve been competitive against all of these teams, but one quarter has blown them away. They’ll want to claw back some respect, and maybe even clinch an unlikely victory.
What they want out of the final month: Improvement.
It’s been their mantra all year and the Red Lions will be looking to consolidate their development through the season as it comes to a close.
OUR TIP: L, L, L, L
5. Mt Gravatt
Morningside (H), Wilston Grange (H), Sandgate (A), Palm Beach (H) – 25
Mt Gravatt are the incumbent in the fifth spot, and don’t have to win every game to stay there, with a handy percentage buffer. However, they need to win as many as Surfers does in the final four weeks. Their record at home has not been great this year, with two wins from six games, where they’ve won five out of eight on the road. If they will need to be wary of a fast finishing Grange, which looms as the danger game in the lot, while the Vultures will also be hoping to replicate thir earlier season win over Palm Beach or upset Morningside on the way home.
What they want out of the final month: Stability
They need to take their opportunities each week. They’ve let a few slip over the season and if they do again, they’re done.
OUR TIP: L, W, W, L
6. Wilston Grange
Palm Beach (H), Mt Gravatt (A), Surfers Paradise (H), UQ (A) – 25
With their captain fit and fighting, Wilston Grange looks a whole lot more intimidating. They have been a bogey side for Palm Beach in the side and nearly snatched victory from them earlier this year. Every game is a must-win, but games against Mt Gravatt and Surfers Paradise are the key for them to leapfrog into the finals spot.
What they want out of the final month: Wins
Yes, everyone wants to win every game they play, but Wilston Grange has basically no wiggle room. If they lose more than one of these matches, their finals prospects are dashed.
OUR TIP: L, L, L, W
7. Palm Beach
Wilston Grange (A), Sandgate (H), Broadbeach (H), Mt Gravatt (A) – 23
They’re already well in the frame as a grand final contender, and Palm Beach should have a relatively strong finish to the year. Their final two matches are their real crunch games, with Broadbeach likely to be their closest contender for a top two spot. They will need to be Wilston Grange and Mt Gravatt, but the Lions have been super on the road this season, dropping only one game, so the odds seem in their favour.
What they want out of the final month: Momentum
Momentum is key in footy and two strong wins over fellow top five teams would be a handy confidence boost going into the business end.
OUR TIP: W, W, W, W
Sandgate (A), Western Magpies (H), Palm Beach (A), Labrador (A) – 23
Broadbeach’s draw just builds nicely for them, with two enormous clashes to conclude their home and away campaign. The Cats will benefit as much as any team would from playing against their fellow finals contenders just before it truly counts, particularly given many of them have not played finals.
What they want out of the final month: Consistency
The young Cats have ebbed and flowed a bit this season but if they can play four high level quarters, they’re one of the most electrifying teams in the comp. And in finals, that’s what they’ll need to do.
OUR TIP: W, W, L, W
Surfers (H), UQ (H), Magpies (A), Broadbeach (H) – 20
Labrador has been building the past fortnight and really needs to finish the year off emphatically. Their match this weekend will be pivotal. The win is not necessarily crucial, they’ve basically already qualified for finals, two games clear of Mt Gravatt, but it will give them some vital momentum. Their final match of the regular season, against Broadbeach, should be an absolute cracker too.
What they want out of the final month: To stay healthy
After their horror injury run to start the year, the Tigers are finally turning the corner and welcoming players into their side rather than ruling them out. A healthy list will be key for them come finals time.
OUR TIP: W, W, W, L
Mt Gravatt (A), Surfers Paradise (H), UQ (H), Western Magpies (A) – 17
Top spot is not going anywhere for Morningside. They would have to lose every game in this final four to drop out of first place, a fact they likely know. With only one of their final opponents currently in the top five, they’ll be likely winners in all of these. They look to have a cruisier run home, but part of that is that they don’t have to play themselves.
What they want out of the final month: Solidity
Morningside just needs to keep on trucking in this last month. Ward off complacency and keep building what they have this season and there’s no reason they would blemish their record.
OUR TIP: W, W, W, W
Based on these results, here is our end of season ladder prediction.
2. Palm Beach
5. Mt Gravatt
6. Surfers Paradise
7. Wilston Grange
8. Western Magpies