By Terry Wilson
The road ahead for the finals contenders:
Palm Beach Currumbin (1st, 48 points): Bye, Mt Gravatt (H), Wilston Grange (A), Surfers Paradise (H), Broadbeach (A).
Broadbeach (2nd, 32 points): Surfers Paradise (A), Morningside (H), Sandgate (A), bye, Palm Beach Currumbin (H).
Morningside (3rd, 32 points): Mt Gravatt (A), Broadbeach (A), Labrador (H), Wilston Grange (H), Sandgate (A).
Surfers Paradise (4th, 28 points): Broadbeach (H), Sandgate (H), Mt Gravatt (A), Palm Beach Currumbin (H), Western Magpies (H).
Mt Gravatt (5th, 24 points): Morningside (H), Palm Beach Currumbin (A), Surfers Paradise (H), Western Magpies (A), Labrador (H).
Labrador (6th, 20 points): Wilston Grange (H), bye, Morningside (A), Sandgate (H), Mt Gravatt (A).
Western Magpies (7th, 12 points): Sandgate (H), Wilston Grange (H), bye, Mt Gravatt (H), Surfers Paradise (A).
Surfers Paradise (4th) v Broadbeach (2nd)
At Sir Bruce Small Park, 2pm Saturday
Ins: Surfers Paradise – Matt Green, Jack Taylor. Broadbeach – Harrison Arnold, Kai Sheers, Ethan Reeves.
Outs: Surfers Paradise – Rene LeFeuvre (ill), Tom Miller (Southport). Broadbeach – Rhys Finn, Elijah Semaan, Bailey Reeves (all omit).
Last time they met: Surfers Paradise 12.4 (76) d Broadbeach 9.5 (59), Round 5 at Subaru Oval.
It has been a great year so far for the Broadbeach Cats, yet there is one thing that is missing from their record.
That is a win against a top-four side, which is something coach Beau Zorko is desperate to rectify when they play arch rivals Surfers Paradise in a big Gold Coast derby at Sir Bruce Small Park on Saturday.
This is a clash between second-placed Broadbeach and fourth-placed Surfers Paradise, the club where Zorko coached from 2011 to 2014 before spending 2018 there as assistant to Brad Moore.
“I’m looking forward to next few weeks and seeing how much we’ve improved,” said Zorko.
“But it is a fact that we haven’t beaten the other three sides currently in the top four this year, so that has to be a motivation for the players.
“They don’t need a reputation of being flat track bullies.”
Surfers come into the derby after snapping a three-match losing streak and are confident they can repeat a 17-point victory over the Cats at Subaru Oval in the fifth round.
Yet Moore is more than aware of what the Cats can do to opposition when they fire up.
The Cats have had eight wins and four losses and their percentage indicates what they can do to rivals if let loose. That percentage is 149.6.
“We know what they’ve been doing is when they’ve beaten sides they’ve really dominated them,” said Moore.
“Beau has them playing really good football.”
Surfers have made three changes to the side that beat Wilston Grange before last weekend’s bye.
Matt Green is back to fill the centre half-forward vacancy and defender Jack Taylor is in for the ill Rene LeFeuvre.
In the Cattery three changes were made to the side that thrashed Wilston Grange last round.
Harrison Arnold, Ethan Reeves and Kai Sheers are back from Southport and have replaced Rhys Finn and rookies Elijah Semaan and Bailey Reeves in the side.
It is interesting to note that Ethan has gone in for younger brother Bailey in a family swap.
Zorko said both Reeves (Bailey) and Semaan did well in their debuts and that time will come soon for their return to the firsts.
Mt Gravatt (5th) v Morningside (3rd)
At Dittmer Park, 2pm Saturday
Ins: Mt Gravatt – Joel Leahy, Michael Hamill, Troy Jamieson, Robert Blood, Jarrod Huddy, Jonah Licht. Morningside – Jimmy Rayner, Isaiah Edwards, Luke Rogerson, Lachlan Dignan, Sam Lunde-Jenkins
Outs: Mt Gravatt – Harrison Gobbie, Jack Wratten, Dominic McEwen, Zac Stone, James London, Michael Doust (all omitted). Morningside – Eddie Mallan (unavail), Sam Godfrey (unavail), Dylan Swann (omit), Aaron Robertson (inj), Michael Graham (inj).
Last time they met: Morningside 16.10 (106) d Mt Gravatt 13.5 (83), Round 10 at Jack Esplen Oval.
The big guns are primed for a heck of a ruck battle when Brisbane heavyweights Mt Gravatt and Morningside clash in a huge derby at Dittmer Park on Saturday.
The availability for Mt Gravatt of Redland-listed big man Jarrod Huddy has set the scene for a ruckathon teaming with in-form skipper Andrew Smith up against the Morningside duo of equally in-form Brad Hodge and skipper Peter Mollison.
It is a clash that is exciting Morningside coach Clint Watts and one that will no doubt shape the outcome of the clash.
“Both teams have two genuine ruckmen now and it certainly adds to their tam with Huddy back in there,” said Watts.
Also helping the Vultures is the return of handy key position utility Jonah Licht, another Redland player.
Actually, Watts noticed that the Vultures have named seven Redland-listed players in their reserves side for the weekend as an indication of depth in their ranks this weekend.
This is a big day at Dittmar Park where the Vultures are hosting their annual Fred Reid Medal Day to honour one of their former players who sadly passed away from cancer a few years ago.
Mt Gravatt made seven changes to their side and all of them are omissions.
Morningside, though, have five changes of personnel, including the losses of Eddie Mallan, Sam Godfrey and Aaron Robertson.
The Panthers have Isaiah Edwards from Redland , the fiery Jimmy Rayner resumes and Sam Lundie-Jenkins is back for his first game of the year.
“Eddie does leave a big hole up forward for us,” said Watts. “He was really, really good for us last week.
“But Lundie-Jenkins comes in and he gets his chance as a small forward.”
Watts said it is inevitable that the Vultures will lift on a special day for the club.
“It’s a big day, Ferg Reid Day – they always get up and about for it.”
Labrador (6th) v Wilston Grange (8th)
At Cooke-Murphy Oval, 2pm Saturday
Ins: Labrador – Max Johnston, Lachlan Davidson, Jacob Sands. Wilston Grange – Blake Nelis, Jimmy Aganas, Dan Henderson, Jackson Coulter.
Outs: Labrador – Andy Hollis (inj), Corey Mullins (unavail), Tom Davidson (inj). Wilston Grange – Jordan McDonald (omit), Myles Lawler (omit), Hamish Warren (omit), Ryan Thompson (inj).
Last time they met: Labrador 12.11 (83) d Wilston Grange 7.14 (56), Round 7 at Hickey Park.
A strong first-half effort last weekend against reigning premiers Palm Bach Currumbin has convinced the Labrador Tigers they are still in with a great chance of playing finals this year.
Labrador are playing Wilston Grange, the competition’s most difficult team to follow, at Cooke-Murphy Oval on Saturday and the Tigers simply have to win to keep their finals chances afloat.
The Tigers are sixth on standings on 20 points, a win behind Mt Gravatt who have a tough one this weekend against Morningside.
Of course it all depends on what happens to Mt Gravatt over the rest of the season because that appears to be the only spot in the final five that the Tigers can snatch.
If they can live up to last weekend’s first half showing then the Tigers should beat the Gorillas.
“I thought that effort was reasonable,” said coach Liam Burke. “So now it’s another chance to get that consistency for four quarters.”
The Tigers have lost ruckman Andy Hollis, probably for the season with a knee injury, as one of three changes from last weekend.
Lachlan Davidson gets another shot at No.1 ruck duties in the place of Hollis while Max Johnston is in for his first seniors game of the season alongside wingman/flanker Jacob Sands.
The Gorillas have Aspley-listed Jimmy Aganas and Blake Nelis returning to the side which will be coached this weekend by Luke Morgan, deputising for Barry O’Brien who is in Darwin for a funeral.
Morgan linked with Wilston Grange this year after being an assistant coach at Old Ivanhoe Grammarians in Melbourne.
Morgan was asked if he could put a finger on why the Gorillas have been so hot and cold this season.
“I think it’s just confidence with the boys,” he said.
“We need to go back to the basics and why they want to play and enjoy the game.”
Western Magpies (7th) v Sandgate (9th)
At McCarthy Homes Oval, 2pm Saturday.
Ins: Western Magpies – Claye Beams, Macauley Lonergan, Liam Dwyer, Jordan Bonney. Sandgate – Brandon Batchelor, Michael Hutchinson, Jordan Maynard, Lochlan Harrop.
Outs: Western Magpies – Samson Ryan (Redland), Dan Edwards (unavail), Aaron Highlands (unavail), Rhett Lloyd (omit).
Last time they met: Western Magpies 10.14 (74) d Sandgate 10.2 (62), Round 5 at Lemke Road Oval.
Western Magpies are walking a finals tightrope with the club needing to win every one of their remaining fixtures to be a chance of making the top five.
The Magpies host Sandgate at McCarthy Homes Oval on Saturday knowing that a loss to the bottom-placed Hawks would mean a start to planning for the 2020 season.
With only three wins this season, the Magpies are seventh on the ladder but they have only four games to go – they have a bye in round 17 – which means the best they can finish the preliminary rounds off with is 28 points.
Right now Palm Beach Currumbin (48 points), Broadbeach (32), Morningside (32) and Surfers Paradise (28) have reached that cut-off mark.
Mt Gravatt, with five games to play, are fifth on 24 points and Labrador are sixth on 20, so if the Magpies are to get into the finals they have to get past both the Vultures and the Tigers – but with a poor percentage working against them.
So the Maggies are at long odds to play finals, although coach Brydan Morgan says while there is life there is hope.
For the visit of Sandgate the Magpies regain ex-Brisbane Lion Claye Beams among four changes.
But the Magpies have lost young ruckman Samson Ryan to Redland in the NEAFL and also missing is tall utility Aaron Highlands.
One of the inclusions is teenager Jordan Bonney for his first seniors game.
Morgan said Bonney provides a great example of what hard work and dedication can achieve.
“He was a big kid through the juniors and played mainly forward,” Morgan said of Bonney.
“But since he stopped growing he has transitioned into a midfielder/forward.,
“He has worked hard and has dropped about eight kilograms and I can’t remember him missing a training session.”
Sandgate should benefit by getting Aspley-listed pair Brandon Batchelor and Michael Hutchinson back alongside state U16 Lochlan Harrop and Jordan Maynard.
The Hawks are getting there slowly and last weekend did well for a half against Mt Gravatt.
“I was pretty happy with a majority of our game against Mt Gravatt and before that the first three quarters against Palm Beach,” said coach Jarad Marsh.
Image: RF Photography