By Terry Wilson
Image: RF Photography
Two rounds to go and the only certainty for the finals is that Palm Beach Currumbin will be in top spot.
With 48 points and a healthy percentage, the Lions will take the minor premiership and thereby get home-ground advantage for the second semi-final.
But which teams fill second, third, fourth and fifth remains in the balance as Broadbeach, Surfers Paradise, Morningside, Mt Gravatt, Western Magpies and Labrador all shoot for positions two to five.
Broadbeach have the bye for the second last round this weekend so can win only one more game and finish on 40 points, that is, if they can beat PBC in the final round.
Surfers have Palm Beach on Saturday, then host Western Magpies. Top three is there for the taking although Morningside, also on 36 points, have a favourable draw with matches against Wilston Grange and Sandgate, the two bottom sides.
The Vultures travel to Western Magpies on Saturday for a huge match that will determine whether the Magpies can play finals.
And Labrador are still in the hunt for the top five but they need to beat Sandgate, then Mt Gravatt (away) to have any hope.
The run home for finals contenders:
Palm Beach Currumbin (1st, 48 points, 200.66 per cent): Surfers Paradise (H), Broadbeach (A).
Broadbeach (2nd, 36 points, 151.20 per cent): Bye, Palm Beach Currumbin (H).
Surfers Paradise (3rd, 36 points, 124.38 per cent): Palm Beach Currumbin (H), Western Magpies (H).
Morningside (4th, 36 points, 116.16 per cent)): Wilston Grange (H), Sandgate (A).
Mt Gravatt (5th, 24 points, 100.52 per cent): Western Magpies (A), Labrador (H).
Western Magpies (6th, 20 points, 90.54 per cent): Mt Gravatt (H), Surfers Paradise (A).
Labrador (7th, 20 points, 77.55 per cent): Sandgate (H), Mt Gravatt (A).
Surfers Paradise (3rd) v Palm Beach Currumbin (1st)
At Sir Bruce Small Park, 2pm Saturday
Ins: Surfers Paradise – Sam Jewell. Palm Beach Currumbin – Josh Woolley, Angus Munro, Corey Beaman.
Outs: Surfers Paradise – Dale Eames (inj). Palm Beach Currumbin – Jon Croad (suspended), Steve Thynne (inj), Brock Askey (inj).
Last time they met: Palm Beach Currumbin 20.10 (130) d Surfers Paradise 6.7 (43), Round 5 at Salk Oval.
Surfers Paradise ruck duo Harris Newton and Thompson Smith will probably think all of their Christmases have come at once when they line up in a Gold Coast blockbuster derby against Palm Beach Currumbin on Saturday.
The clash is between unbeaten reigning premiers (PBC) and the third-placed Demons and it promises to be a cracking encounter at Sir Bruce Small Park, where two free-flowing styles will be on display for what will be a big crowd.
For Surfers talls Newton and Smith, it will be the first time for months that they haven’t had to go up against giant rival ruckmen with PBC losing Jon Croad through suspension and forced to call on underrated Jed Harrison for the role.
In recent times, Surfers have played Morningside and Mt Gravatt – teams with outstanding big men.
Morningside had Brad Hodge and Peter Mollison and last weekend Mt Gravatt had Andrew Smith and Jarrod Huddy.
So, this weekend will be a rare luxury for the Demons duo to have a height advantage for a change.
And another luxury for Surfers will be the likely absence of star forward Jack Anthony from the Lions side.
Last weekend coach Jess Sinclair declared that Anthony will ‘100 per cent, definitely’ will be playing against Surfers but the big man was named only as an emergency.
Sinclair said Anthony continues to be troubled by a tight hamstring but that he would be playing this weekend if it was a final.
“Jack trained on Tuesday night and seemed to be all right but after Thursday night he told me he felt a bit tight so I made the call that if he’s not right then it’s not worth risking him.”
In Anthony’s place, the Lions have substituted a pretty handy performer in Josh Woolley after hauls of seven and five goals in the reserves in his comeback from groin issues.
Also back in the side are classy defender Angus Munro and youngster Corey Beaman to replace Steve Thynne and Brock Askey.
Surfers have just the one change, regaining key defender Sam Jewell from Southport in the NEAFL.
Broadbeach have the bye this weekend, so a Surfers victory would put them back into second spot as they go head-to-head with the Cats and Morningside for that second spot and that all-important home ground advantage in the qualifying final.
Surfers coach Brad Moore said it is the right time to get a side such as Palm Beach as the finals loom.
“This is the time of the year when you play opponents at their strongest – if you want to achieve success you have to play teams when they are at their best,” he said.
Western Magpies (6th) v Mt Gravatt (5th)
At McCarthy Homes Oval, 2pm Saturday
Ins: Western Magpies – Val Pope, Caleb Franks, Bruce Reville, Samson Ryan. Mt Gravatt – Bill Sam, Luke O’Sullivan, Harry Hunkin, Darcy Marsh , Frazer Neate, Joel Leahy, Dominic Nash.
Outs: Western Magpies – Lachlan Dennis (omit), Harrison Herr (omit), Jordan Bonney (omit), Macauley Lonergan (omit).
Last time they met: Mt Gravatt 13.10 (88) d Western Magpies 12.10 (82), Round 1 at Dittmer Park.
The equation is a case of black and white for Western Magpies when they host cross-Brisbane rivals Mt Gravatt at McCarthy Homes Oval on Saturday.
A loss to their archrivals would mean season over for the Magpies.
Victory, on the other hand, would put them level with the Vultures on 24 points with one round left before the finals.
At this stage Mt Gravatt have a superior percentage – 100.52 to 90.54 – with a home match against Labrador to complete the preliminary rounds.
The Magpies must win on Saturday, then beat Surfers Paradise away, to be a part of the play-offs.
Win and the Magpies live to fight another day. Lose and it’s all over.
“It’s a pretty simple equation,” said Western coach Brydan Morgan.
“We have two teams fighting for their season and if that doesn’t get the competitive juices flowing then I don’t know what will.
“I think this one will be one of the games of the year but we just have to win it and then worry about the other stuff.”
Coming off a poor loss to Surfers Paradise last weekend, the Vultures need to lift and too this end they have had a win at selection time with four Redland-listed players coming into their side.
Coach Adam Boon said the inclusions of Bombers Bill Sam, Luke O’Sullivan, Harry Hunkin and small forward Darcy Marsh, plus the returns of key trio Frazer Neate, Joel Leahy and Dominic Nash gives the Vultures perhaps their strongest looking side of the season.
Boon was asked if he thought making seven changes was a knee-jerk reaction to the Surfers loss.
“I don’t think it was,” he said.
“We’ve had three of those four Redland players in our side for a while now, Neate and Leahy are probably our main two ball movers and Nash adds some size to our forwards.
“They’re all good ins for us because we were probably a bit lacklustre last week and we had to change a few things around.”
The Magpies get towering teenage ruckman Samson Ryan back from Redland, and veteran Val Pope’s recall gives the home side an extra touch of class.
Labrador (7th) v Sandgate (9th)
At Cooke-Murphy Oval, 2pm Saturday
Ins: Labrader – Pat Murtagh, Anthony Djurovitch, Brad Carter. Sandgate – Kuot Thock, Harrison Sweeney, Sam Lubke, Max Homer.
Outs: Labrador – Lachlan Davidson (omit), Matt Fraser (inj), Dane Watmuff (unavail). Sandgate – Tahj Abberley (Qld U17), Ky McKenzie (Qld U17), Jordan Maynard (inj), Blake Hartley (inj).
Last time they met: Labrador 14.7 (91) d Sandgate 10.7 (67), Round 10 at Lemke Road Oval.
Labrador need a miracle to make it to the QAFL finals this year but, as coach Liam Burke says, where there’s hope there’s life.
The Tigers host bottom side Sandgate at Cooke-Murphy Oval on Saturday knowing that it will be all over for them, finals wise, if they can’t beat the Hawks.
“If we don’t win this one, we wouldn’t deserve to play finals anyway,” said Burke.
Labrador sit seventh on standings, a win and percentage behind fifth-placed Mt Gravatt and with Western Magpies holding down sixth position with two games to go.
“All we know is that we have to win both our last games and then rely on other results going our way,” said Burke.
Labrador made three changes, bringing back young ruckman Pat Murtagh, on-baller Anthony Djurovitch and defender Brad Carter.
Sandgate made an interesting call by naming Sudanese product Kuot Thock for his seniors debut.
Also named for his debut is Harrison Sweeney while Sam Lubke and Max Homer are back in the side.
Coach Jarad Marsh said Thock is up from the club’s Under 16s and has that X-factor about him.
“He takes the game on and is entertaining to watch,” said Marsh.
The Hawks are struggling for numbers at this late stage of the season and Marsh said it has been a problem this week coming up with two sides.
Morningside (4th) v Wilston Grange (8th)
At Jack Esplen Oval, 2pm Sunday
Ins: Morningside – Sam Cunnington. Wilston Grange – Marcus Macdonald-Camden, Liam Molan, Caleb Scott, Reed Maskell-Dobbyn, Gracen Sproule.
Outs: Morningside – Daniel Frame (inj). Wilston Grange – Declan Warren (suspended), Jimmy Anagas (inj), Jack Tomkinson (inj), Will Martyn (inj), Hamish Warren (inj).
Last time they met: Morningside 13.13 (91) d Wilston Grange 13.5 (83), Round 9 at Hickey Park.
Morningside have a sniff of a finals double-chance and this is the lure that should spur them on when they play Wilston Grange on Sunday.
The clash is at Jack Esplen Oval, Panther territory, and is the feature of a big Legacy Cup day.
Morningside officials are hoping for a big turn-out for their special Sunday fixture which will feature teams in specially designed jumpers, Army displays and entertainment to promote awareness of the Legacy cause.
Earlier in the year Esplen Oval hosted a hugely successful Pink Panther day with a double-header featuring a NEAFL match between Redland and the GWS Giants a QAFL match between Morningside and Mt Gravatt.
If Morningside win, then win again in the last round when they host Labrador, second spot for the finals is there for the taking, which would mean at least two home finals.
After eighth-placed Grange on Sunday the Panthers are away to bottom side Sandgate but they need Surfers Paradise to get beaten once over the final two games.
The Panthers have only the one change, losing top defender Daniel Frame and bringing in Redland player Sam Cunnington.
The Grange rolled out five changes, including the promotion of Marcus Macdonald-Camden and Reed Maskell-Dobbyn as part of the youth development program.
Morningside have plenty to play for but so do the Gorillas, said coach Barry O’Brien.
The first-year coach will be demanding a strong showing from his troops in what is the club’s final match of a 2019 season that had its moments of performance highs countered by too many lows.
“People are saying we have nothing to play for but we do, as a football club,” he said.
“The biggest thing is to finish our year out because I believe the club has improved on and off the field.
“We have developed a lot of young players. For example we have used six players in the seniors who will be playing colts finals.”
Earlier this season the Grange gave Morningside a big shock when they led at quarter, half and three-quarter time before four goals to two in the final term gave the Panthers an eight-point victory.