Round 8 Preview- Clash of Heavyweights
North Coffs v Sawtell/Toormina
North Coffs will look to overturn an unfavourable recent head-to-head record against the undefeated Saints at the Coffs Coast Leisure Park.
The Saints have not lost to the Kangaroos since the start of 2009, and have been particularly impressive leading into the mid-season break.
In comparison, North Coffs have been inconsistent despite sitting in second place. A win against Grafton in Round 6 showed an improvement, and will look to continue their upward curve with another finals campaign beckoning.
Amazingly, from these sides, only Brad Giri (North Coffs) and Daniel Pritchard (Saints) lined up in last weekend’s Interleague clash against the Tamworth AFL. A primary reason is the lingering injuries on either side of the fence. Levi Sands (knee), Ben Hooke (shoulder), Mark Couzens (hamstring) and Elliott Schmidt (appendix) were among those who missed the clash.
The Kangaroos can only learn from their 31-point defeat in their last encounter. They were in with a big chance at three-quarter-time only to see the Saints’ class prevail in the final term.
The match will again be won and lost in the midfield. Kurt Connelly faces a tough task and requires strong support from secondary ruckman, Trent Freebody. Josh Drum and Tom Campbell are defensive midfielders capable of winning the clearances.
Sawtell are particularly strong in this area. Simon Taylor and Luke Matthews have been reliable performers this season to date. Ethan Kelly is another to come of age in his first full year in the top grade.
Darren Funston will lead the backline, with Mat Gleeson likely to line-up again against Ben Hooke in a pivotal duel. Courtney Tune and Jack Gillingham are others the ‘Roos will have to watch in the back-half.
The forward line has been led this season by Ryan Turner. Turner kicked five goals in the corresponding clash and will need more impact from Brendan Norton and Jason Mayer for the Kangaroos to get over the line.
One can argue there is more at stake for the Kangaroos as they try to hold onto second place on the competition ladder. It promises to be a great day of football with all three grades in action, starting at 11.15am.
Coffs Swans v Grafton
In a battle of the cellar dwellers, a win is needed to keep either side’s final aspirations alive at Fitzroy Oval.
The Swans have showed glimpses of promise but need their full compliment on the pitch to be a chance of manoeuvring their way into the finals. The same can be said for Grafton who would have enjoyed the time off.
The Swans contingent played a prominent part in the North Coast’s win at Armidale. Kris Rundell continued his strong year with a hard-running performance on the wing, Fellow debutants; Ben Miller, who dominated the hit-outs, Sam Turner and Darby Pearce are among those the home side will rely on going forward.
Grafton were also well represented despite their poor start that sees them sit last on the ladder. Justin Darby was again productive for the Interleague side at full-back and will have his hands full again this week.
Jarrod Meade and Joel Sword need big games in the centre for the Tigers. They do lack depth at either end and have been exposed against the premier outfits in previous games.
The Swans are perennial finalists and need a big win to get their season back on track.
Nambucca Valley v Port Macquarie
Another intriguing match-up rounds off this weekend with the improving Nambucca Valley playing host to the Magpies at Macksville Park.
These sides have produced some close duels lately, with the Lions sure to gain confidence from winning their last encounter.
The two sides were most heavily represented at the Interleague fixture, and should be ready to fire in an important match considering their positions on the ladder.
Port have been building leading into the mid-season break. Michael Kemp has been most impressive in the matches he has played this season in the ruck. The Lions will look to counter his presence with Mick Townsend and the form player of the competition, Aaron Clarke.
Clarke was exceptional last weekend which is amazing to believe considering he has only played the game for two years since crossing from rugby league.
There is class in the middle for both outfits. Monty Schmidt and Luke Benson are in the form of their lives, and will square off against Shannon Skreja and Matthew Lill in an enticing duel.
Jesse Schmidt and Ray McGrath are livewire forwards and will be marked heavily in an attempt to quell their influence.
Nambucca are enjoying their football more than ever and could register another win despite the Magpies starting the match as favourites.