By Terry Wilson
Labrador (6th) v Palm Beach Currumbin (1st)
At Cooke-Murphy Oval, 2pm Saturday
Ins: Labrador – John Boxer, Corey Mullins, Hugo Barry, Pat Murtagh. Palm Beach Currumbin – Mitch Johnson, Liam McNeven, Ashton Crossley.
Outs: Labrador – Rhys Coombe (omit), Michael Lakeman (omit), Tyler Brown (omit), Matthew Watmuff (omit). Palm Beach Currumbin – Jack Anthony (inj), Glenn Screech (inj), Callum McBurnie (omit).
Last time they met: Palm Beach Currumbin 14.8 (92) d Labrador 9.12 (66), Round 8 at Salk Oval.
It is interesting to hear that Palm Beach Currumbin coach Jess Sinclair believes that Gold Coast rival Labrador is the side that has given the Lions most problems this year.
Unbeaten to date, the Lions trek to Cooke-Murphy Oval on Saturday to play the Tigers in what may well be a season-defining fixture for the home side after their poor display away to Broadbeach last weekend.
A 74-point thumping at Subaru Oval is hardly the sort of form that should worry PBC, yet Sinclair is treading cautiously when the Tigers are on home turf.
“I feel they are the side that gave us most trouble this year – and at their ground they’re playing every game now as if they’re finals,” said the Lions boss.
“I think that (26 points in the eighth round) was our smallest winning margin for the year.”
Sinclair says you must respect any side that has high-calibre players like Wayde Mills and Bryce Ratzlaff in it.
Still, the Tigers need to improve 100 per cent on last weekend’s effort when they were thrashed by Broadbeach in heavy conditions.
It was a performance that raised questions about the ability of Labrador to stay in the fight for the final five although coach Liam Burke insists his players are better than that effort suggested.
The Tigers made four changes, all omissions, but it could have been more.
Now, after that bad day out, the Tigers run into the red-hot premiers and Burke was asked for his thoughts.
“It has to be exciting because we get to see how much pride players have in their individual performances (after Broadbeach),” he said.
It may be a sign of the future when the Tigers brought in four young players – Pat Murtagh, John Boxer, Corey Mullins and 19-year-old Hugo Barry, a former South Australian under-18 rep.
Still missing is midfield dynamo Alex McKay, who has struggled with hamstring issues since the state game.
After losing star forward Jack Anthony again, this time to hamstring tightness, the Lions get Mitch Johnson back from Southport NEAFL and regain key defender Liam McNeven among three changes.
Morningside (3rd) v Western Magpies (7th)
At Jack Esplen Oval, 2pm Saturday
Ins: Morningside – Sam Cunnington, Ryan Dadds, Matt Serrurier, Hiovake Livesey, Ben McNiece. Western Magpies – Ryan Harwood, Gareth Crawford, Gerard Moore.
Outs: Morningside – Nathan Beck (unavail), Cameron Spence (Redland), Kidean Coleman (rested), Isaiah Edwards (omit), Dylan Swan (omit). Western Magpies – Claye Beams (unavail), Jack Austin (omit), Macauley Lonergan (omit).
Last time they met: Morningside 11.22 (88) d Western Magpies 5.6 (36), Round 8 at McCarthy Homes Oval.
Key midfielders Ryan Harwood and Gareth Crawford may be returning to the ranks of the Western Magpies this weekend yet is exciting teenage ruckman Samson Ryan who could hold the key, says Morningside coach Clint Watts.
Morningside take on the Magpies in a crucial match for the western boys at Pantherland, Jack Esplen Oval, on Saturday in a fixture so important to the finals hopes of the visitors.
And as much as Harwood and Crawford injected much needed experience and nous to the Magpies, Watts feels that if Ryan can make his mark then he represents a clear danger.
“I can’ wait to see our Brad Hodge and Samson go against each other, it’ll be exciting,” the Panthers mentor said.
Hodge is definitely one of the premier ruckmen in the competition and with captain Peter Mollison there in support, the onus will be on teenager Ryan.
“I suppose they struggled for a ruckman first time around (the Panthers belted the Magpies) but the kid has come in and has done well,” said Watts.
The Panthers have made five changes, among them the loss of tall option Nathan Beck, who is unavailable and Cameron Spence to Redland in the NEAFL.
But they gain a Redland pair in Sam Cunnington and Ryan Dadds and have exciting utility Hiovake Livesey available again.
The Magpies ran out of patience with teenage forward Jack Austin, who is back to seconds, and they lost ex-Brisbane AFL player Claye Beams among three changes.
Back in the eighth round the Panthers won by 11.22 to 5.6, so we asked Magpies coach Brydan Morgan how he has worked to turn that result around.
“We were just terrible that day so we prefer to go back to the previous year when we flogged them by 100 points at their oval,” said Morgan.
“We’re playing good footy at the moment. We beat Surfers then took Broadbeach all the way so irrespective of ladder positions this is a 50-50 game.
“But we do need our midfield to win the battle.”
Wilston Grange (8th) v Broadbeach (2nd)
At Hickey Park, 2pm Saturday
Ins: Wilston Grange – Hugh Campbell, Declan Warren, Hamish Warren, Henry Leong, Zac Molan, Sam Dale. Broadbeach – Darcy Dienjes, Rhys Finn, Aiden Fyfe, Bailey Reeves, Elijah Semaan.
Outs: Wilston Grange – Jim (unavail), Daniel Farry (rested), Blake Nelis (unavail), Trent Aarons (unavail), Gracen Sproule (colts), Reed Maskell-Dobbyn (colts). Broadbeach – Jai Lyons, Harrison Arnold, Kwabe Boakye, Jack O’Shea, Kai Sheers (all to Southport NEAFL).
Last time they met: Broadbeach 26.12 (168) d Wilston Grange 7.6 (48), Round 8 at Subaru Oval.
In these days of clubs having to work with the player movements between NEAFL operations and life in the QAFL there have been a number of anomalies along the way.
Many times the dropping of a NEAFL club to his allotted QAFL club has worked to perfection, yet in the case of Broadbeach this weekend it has been the opposite.
At a time when Southport are having issues with their roster Broadbeach are providing five of last week’s winning players to the defending premiers.
But that’s the way it works, says Broadbeach Coach Beau Zorko.
“You roll with the punches and move on,” said Zorko after losing Kwabe Boakye, Jack O’Shea, Jai Lyons, Harrison Arnold and Kai Sheers to the Sharks.
Zorko said it was a tough call for the Cats but pointed out that all five youngsters are officially listed Southport players, so the NEAFL premiers have first call on them.
A positive from the off-field goings-on is the chance for the Cats to hand first grade debuts to two local junior products in Bailey Reeves and Elijah Semann.
The Cats also have teenager Aiden Fyfe back from state duties and reinstated Darcy Dienjes and Rhys Finn to seniors.
Wilston Grange won the corresponding match last year in a major upset over the eventual grand finalists and that was a result that still sits in the minds of certain Broadbeach players.
“Certain players are well aware of corresponding events there last year,” said Zorko.
“Jimmy McMahon was having his 200th game.”
The Grange camp is also mindful of the last time they played the Cats, a meeting which resulted in a 120-point thumping – after the Gorillas led 5.0 to 3.0 at quarter-time.
That effort led to coach Barry O’Brien actually apologising to the Cats for a second-rate effort.
“We got embarrassed down there and we’re most definitely looking to bounce back from that,” he said.
The Gorillas have made five changes, including the return of captain Hugh Campbell although their best player this season, Dan Farry, is being rested this weekend.
Sandgate (9th) v Mt Gravatt (6th)
At Lemke Road Oval, 6.30pm Saturday
Ins: Sandgate – Cody Stackelberg, Tahj Abberley, Daniel Haynes. Mt Gravatt – Harry Hunkin, Jarrod Huddy, Tom Matthews, Mitchell Fitzpatrick.
Outs: Sandgate ‑ James Taglieri (omit), Sam Lubke (omit), Lochlan Harrop (Qld U16s). Mt Gravatt – Jonah Licht (Redland), Justin Currie (Redland), Zac Stone (omit), Joel Leahy (inj).
Last time they met: Mt Gravatt 21.23 (149) d Sandgate 10.7 (67), Round 8 at Dittmer Park.
Mt Gravatt’s cross-town visit to play Sandgate on Saturday night presents a great chance for the Vultures to pile the pressure on top-five rivals Labrador.
With the Tigers (sixth on 20 points, 80.97 per cent) hosting unbeaten Palm Beach Currumbin down on the Gold Coast, the opportunity is there for Mt Gravatt (20 points, 99.88 per cent) to jump a game clear with five rounds to go – that is, if the Tigers get beaten by the premiers.
The Vultures have regained Redland NEAFL pair Harry Hunkin and Jarrod Huddy to counter-balance the losses of two Bombers in Jonah Licht and Justin Currie.
And the Vultures have handed Tom Matthews and Mitchell Fitzpatrick their first-grade spurs for the clash at Lemke Road Oval, a match that starts at 6.30pm.
Fitzpatrick is an interesting selection.
He used to be taught at Park Ridge High by current Mt Gravatt coach Adam Boon and is a past All-Australian under-15 selection.
Sandgate have regained Cory Stackelberg and Rising Star Award nominee Tahj Abberley among three changes to the side that beat Wilston Grange last start.
Stackleberg won Sandgate’s best and fairest in 2017 but, with Lions top-up duties, has rarely been seen in the red and green jumper since.
Boon is definitely expecting a walk in the park despite the Hawks having just the one win this season.
“I’m not taking them lightly, they’re a decent young side that has a crack and they’re coming off a win at the same ground,” he said.
Image Credit: Darren Sonnenberg