Round 13 Preview
Coffs Swans v North Coffs
The Coffs Swans host their old rivals North Coffs at Fitzroy Oval on Saturday still battered and bruised from their titanic battle with Sawtell last week.
The two sides’ pendulum-like form in the last couple of weeks would make it hard to predict a winner but like any local derby, this re-match is expected to be tightly fought.
The Kangaroos will be buoyed by the return of Brad Giri in the midfield. His value to the side is immeasurable, and whilst he will be short of match fitness, it gives Sam Dawes and Darren Funston welcome relief, considering they have been easily the sides’ best on a weekly basis of late. Giri has only played one game this year and was adjudged best on ground that day and you can never underestimate his impact on the Roos.
The reigning league and club best and fairest will hopefully free up fringe players, such as Tom Merrick and Alex Delves, whose contributions are necessary to overcome their loss to Port last weekend. After impressing against the Lions, the ‘Roos were well off the pace against the ‘Pies, and consequently, were exposed down back.
The Swans were given a reality check against the Saints who were very effective in shutting down their run in the midfield. They found out just how hard it is to win the big games against the vigorous Saints and one would expect another torrid initiation from the Roos this week.
The side made elementary skill errors and turned the ball over too often in the second half when the game was there to be won. Credit to the Saints who spooked the young Swans with their physical dominance, and Peter Chadwick should aim to rectify this issue leading into the match.
They need more avenues to goal than Fraser Duryea, who was a lone hand last week with five goals. Evan Duryea was tagged out of the game by Daniel Pritchard, and will need to bounce back to assist Chadwick and Dave Box, who is enjoying a purple patch lately. Rob Eddy was superb down back last weekend and will have another shutdown job this weekend on Dawes or Funston. This match-up will be crucial and could well decide the outcome of this match.
There is not much between the top four sides this season I am predicting another tight close contest that will have the crowd on its toes. It is a real test of character for both sides, with the loser sure to have more questions asked of their premiership credentials. The reserves kicks off at 1pm and the big game at 2.30pm.
Port Macquarie v Grafton
Port surprised many by making the journey and easily defeating North Coffs last weekend. It wouldn’t have been a surprise to their leadership group who are quietly confident of success heading deeper into the season. They have their sights set squarely on the finals now, with their prospects improving more so by the week.
Jarrod Brian has improved this season and with Jesse Schmidt and the returning, Jacob Hart, forming a presence across half-forward should snuff out any algebraic or mathematic chance the Tigers have of making the finals. The return of little Steve Gluyas has led to an improvement in Port’s performances, and the side is still yet to welcome back Shannon Skreja and Zac Nankervill from injury.
Grafton face the toughest road trip in the competition after a strong attacking effort against the Lions. Daniel Zacek was superb up forward booting nine goals, whilst Dave Gordon and Zac Edwards were the dominant big men on the ground.
Ryan Sheather will be busy down back and will need plenty of help for the Tigers to be competitive.
Port can grab second spot should the Swans falter and I would not expect any favours for the Tigers who, despite a fantastic win last week, do not handle the road well. All in all, this spells trouble and the Tigers will find it hard to quell the reigning premiers who are just starting to get back on track after a mid season slump.
Nambucca Valley v Sawtell/Toormina
The Sawtell/Toormina Saints have snatched back top spot on the ladder and will show no mercy against bottom placed Nambucca Valley Lions at Macksville on Saturday.
The Saints controlled the tempo of the match against the Swans and carried out their game plan to a tee. The win was even more valuable given the absence of league ruckman, Courtney Tune. Mark Couzens and Todd Matthews should get plenty of the ball, with Tristan McCormick and Scott Matthews also keen to build on their form in the middle of the ground.
Ben Hooke will be keen to atone for a poor outing last week and should get more of a chance deeper in the forward line.
Nambucca were unable to overcome Grafton last weekend and will find the going much harder, despite better performances at home lately. Jim Angel was a standout for the Lions last week along with consistent performers in Luke Benson and Ray McGrath.
That won’t be enough to trouble the Saints who are as safe as a house at present.