By Terry Wilson
Mt Gravatt v Surfers Paradise
At Dittmer Park, 2pm Saturday
Mt Gravatt: Ins: Kailem Baker, Dominic Nash, Daniel Morgan. Outs: Jarrod Huddy (Redland NEAFL), Nathan Morgan (omitted), Brayden O’Dea (omitted).
Surfers Paradise: Ins: Connor Manning, Sam Jewell, Tom Howard, Noa Corbett. Outs: Jack Prestegar (concussion), Rene Le Feuvre (ankle), Cody Filewood (Southport), Nick O’Hare (omitted).
Last time they met: Mt Gravatt 11.13 (79) d Surfers Paradise 9.12 (66), R8 at Sir Bruce Small Park.
THE stakes are significant when Mt Gravatt host Surfers Paradise at Dittmer Park in one of the most important fixtures of the QAFL season to date.
Depending on the result, it could be the beginning of the end for the losers, as in finals participation, or it could be the cementing of a top-three spot for the finals for the winners.
In the blue (and white) corner is Mt Gravatt, currently fourth on standings with 36 points but with a moderate percentage of 104.97.
In the red (and blue) corner is Surfers Paradise, level with the Vultures but sitting third with a superior percentage of 118.05.
Ahead of Mt Gravatt and Surfers are Broadbeach (40 points, 141.10 per cent) and leaders Palm Beach Currumbin (48 points, 162.06 per cent).
Just behind the Vultures and the demons are Western Magpies (32 points, 140.35) and Morningside (32 points, 114.51 per cent).
All of which means that if there is an upset or two this weekend things could be turned upside down.
Mt Gravatt coach Daniel Webster knows that a loss against Surfers cold carry significant ramifications, especially with a final-round clash away to Palm Beach the following weekend.
“At this stage it’s a game they have to win and a game we have to win,” Webster said.
“It is a massive game with the winner just about guaranteed (to play) finals.
“But we can drop to sixth if we lose and Morningside and the Magpies both win.”
Beyond Saturday, both clubs wind up their home-and-away campaigns with tough draws. The Vultures take on the Lions away and Surfers host the Magpies.
Mt Gravatt have three changes to the side that last played a fortnight before the bye.
Among them is the loss of Jarrod Huddy to Redlands. But the Vultures gain a Redland player in Kailem Baker.
And unfortunately for Nathan Morgan, his place in the side has been taken by brother Daniel.
For Surfers, things have changed following their superb win over premiers Palm Beach Currumbin.
The Dees have lost Cody Filewood to Southport, as well as injured pair Fene Le Feuvre and Jack Prestegar, but the club regains three Southport players in a decent sort of swap.
Tom Howard and Noa Corbett fill in the tall and small forward roles respectively, while Sam Jewell and Connor Manning are back as talls in defence.
Coach Brad Moore is anxious to see how his players back up after such a big win over PBC last round.
“As the ladder shows, things can change enormously this week, so we need to back up the performance we put in last week,” Moore said.
“Big point for us was our performance last week. It was great but a measure of how far we’ve come is to back it up.”
“We know a win would probably cement our spot in the top five.”Rd18 - Vultures v Demons
Labrador v Morningside
At Cooke-Murphy Oval, 2pm Saturday
Labrador: Ins: Dyson Budarick, Lachlan Davidson. Outs: Riley Watters, Brayden Pitcher (quad).
Morningside: Ins: Michael Graham, Lachlan Russ, Tom Jeffrey, William Pendlebury, Ethan Hunt. Outs: Keidean Coleman (Brisbane Lions NEAFL), Brad Dale (Aspley NEAFL), Isaiah Edwards (injured), Harry Baxter (omitted), Ben McNiece (omitted).
Last time they met: Morningside 16.11 (107) d Labrador 4.6 (30), R6 at Jack Esplen Oval.
LABRADOR coach Aaron Shattock cannot miss the irony of his Tigers having to front up against a wounded and embarrassed Morningside unit for the second time this QAFL season.
Grand final rivals in 2014 and again in 2015, Labrador and Morningside square off at Cooke-Murphy Oval on Saturday at a time when the 2015/16 premiers are out of flag contention but the Panthers right in it up to their ears.
But Shattock wonders about the irony of having to again meet Morningside when the visitors will be snarling after a 101-point thumping from the Western Magpies last weekend.
“Can you believe it but the last time we played Morningside, they had been touched up by Sandgate (in the upset of the season),” Shattock said.
“Now we get them after they’d been touched up by the Magpies so no doubt they’ll be breathing fire.
“They’re a proud club and they’ll be needing to bounce back and I’d much rather them have won by 100, to tell you the truth.”
The position the Panthers find themselves in on the ladder, sitting sixth although they have a game in hand against Sandgate in the final round, should ensure the visitors are switched on.
Coach Steve Wildschut is not so much wary of Labrador, more along the lines of having to have respect for their rivals.
“They have been in the last three grand finals and have had a rough trot with injuries,” Wildschut said.
“They still have a good side. They have big forwards and the have a fantastic spine.”
This is where the game will be won or lost – if Labrador can hold the Panthers in the engine room and outside, areas which have been the downfall of the Tigers this year.
Labrador have only two changes, regaining on-baller Dyson Budarick and ruckman Lachlan Davidson.
But the big news is that two Tigers, big forward Jake Goldsmith and utility Sam Walker, are to play their 100th seniors matches for the club together on the same day.
Morningside are still without Kent Abey, Nathan Kinch, Matt Logan, Campbell Wearne and Sam Godfrey as they made five changes.
One of them is the naming of club junior product Ethan Hunt for his senior’s debut. Hunt was a member of the Panthers, 2017 Colts premiership side.Rd18 - Tigers v Panthers
Palm Beach Currumbin v Wilston Grange
At Salk Oval, 2pm Saturday
Palm Beach Currumbin: Ins: Jon Croad, Tom Thynne, Tyler Cornish, Todd Grayson, Lachlan Ritchie, Taylor Hombsch. Outs: Jed Turner (Southport), Brad McDonald (foot), Josh Woolley (groin), Nathan Robertson (omitted), Josh Lys (omitted), Zach Callinan (omitted).
Wilston Grange: Ins: Harry Milford, Harry Leong, Lliam Molan. Outs: Ryan Keats, Tom Smart, Zach Southern.
Last time they met: Palm Beach Currumbin 18.16 (124) d Wilston Grange 8.9 (57), R5 at Bendigo Bank Oval.
NATHAN Clarke will end a two-season tenure as coach of Wilston Grange when the Gorillas take on the daunting task of matching it with premiers Palm Beach Currumbin at Salk Oval on the Gold Coast this Saturday.
A former Brisbane Lions AFL player, Clarke has told the club he will step down after the Grange’s final game for 2018 – they have the bye in the final round – because of family and work commitments.
Clarke intends, however, to continue in some capacity with the football department at the Grange.
“It’s not like I’m going somewhere, I’ll have some sort of footy role where I’ll remain involved in things,” he said.
“But I know I’d love to go out with a win.
“It’d be nice to finish the year knocking over the top two sides (last weekend the Gorillas bowled over second-placed Broadbeach).
“I’m not sure how realistic that is, but if we play the way we did last weekend we’re a chance.”
Most certainly PBC are not into full stride at the moment and have produced six changes to the side that stumbled last weekend.
The premiers get some heavy artillery back in midfield movers Tyler Cornish and Tom Thynne, ruckman Jon Croad, classy defender Todd Grayson for only his second game of an injury-interrupted season, and handy forward utility Lachlan Ritchie.
But the Lions have lost half-back playmaker Josh Woolley to a leg injury as one key out.
Owens said there could have been more changes and that some underperformers last round are lucky to still be in the side.
“There are three or four others who could consider themselves fortunate to still be there,” the coach said in a stern pre-finals warning.
Owens said training this week, following on from the loss to Surfers in the Coast derby, has been good.
He said the bad thing last weekend was not so much losing for only the second time this season, it was more to do with the way the Lions went about it.
“The loss was not the worst thing, it was the way we steered away from our strengths,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s okay to lose as long as you lose playing well and doing the team things.”Rd18 - Lions v Gorillas
Western Magpies v Sandgate
At McCarthy Homes Oval, 2pm Saturday
Western Magpies: Ins: Matt Davis, Sam Copland, Liam Dwyer. Outs: Jakob de Winter (unavailable), Jack Austin (omittrf), Lachlan Dennis (omitted).
Sandgate: Ins: Hayden Cliff. Outs: Blake Hartley (ill). Last time they met: Western Magpies 26.16 (172) d Sandgate 7.4 (46), R6 at Lemke Road Oval.
PEER pressure is one of the main things driving Western Magpies as the side marches towards a finals berth.
The battle for spots in the top 22 has been intensifying each week and things were no different when the Magpies sat down to finalise their side for Saturday’s home match against Sandgate at McCarthy Homes Oval.
When asked if there was any chance of complacency setting in for this game against the bottom side, coach Brydan Morgan said it had better not be.
That’s because it is starting to get hard to break into the side.
“There is a lot to play for and the boys understand that,” Morgan said as the Magpies look for a rise up the ladder from fifth, a position level with Morningside and a win behind third and fourth sides Surfers Paradise and Mt Gravatt.
“To be honest we have plenty of guys fighting for spots so there is no room for complacency from an individual point of view.”
Morgan said the buoyant mood in the western Brisbane camp has a lot to do with pressure on for those first-grade spots.
“I reckon half a dozen players could feel vulnerable about their positions in the team,” he said.
“We have a lot of certain first graders to come back, which puts pressure on those there at the moment.”
For the Sandgate clash the Magpies regain Matt Davis, Sam Copland and Liam Dwyer, which gives them a strong look of versatility.
Should the Magpies win, as expected, and if either Surfers or Labrador win against Mt Gravatt and Morningside respectively, the Maggies could take over third spot at worst.
Sandgate have just the one change in what has been a season strewn with injuries and calls to Aspley in the NEAFL.
“We have just one new player this week,” coach Jarad Marsh said.
“We have Cliffy (Hayden Cliff) back. We’ve been waiting for him to get back from injury.
“He has been injured and hasn’t played since about round four or five.”
The Hawks have a tough job ahead, but Marsh says if they can reproduce some of last weekend’s form against Labrador they can cause problems for the Magpies.
“Everyone performed reasonably well then, but they didn’t hit the scoreboard,” Marsh said.Rd18 - Magpies v Hawks