Round 9 Preview
Sawtell/Toormina v Grafton
After three rounds of ground closures, don't expect perfection in the match of the round at the Coffs Coast Leisure Park.
A strong game plan will be even more pivotal to the result given neither side has been able to gain momentum.
The Saints have battled adversity all year, with their gritty win over Port Macquarie last start typifying their club spirit. Being the side most inconvenienced by the weather, with Richardson Park ruled out of action for the near future, it is amazing to think that they sit just outside the top two with an opportunity to move inside provided the Swans falter this weekend.
The midfield trio of Luke Matthews, Todd Matthews and Mark Couzens have been improving each week, as has Daniel Johnson and Daniel Pritchard after both being absent at different stages this season.
Tim Chuhaj and Elliott Schmidt have come along well and have the attributes to be reliable contributors for their side.
Grafton despite losing their last match will be able to take confidence out of challenging ladder-leading North Coffs. They missed a good opportunity to challenge Port for the top four last week and will be hungry for the chance to show their wares this week.
Grafton, boosted by new gun backman, Tim Davis were unlucky against the Kangaroos. With Davis, the Tigers possess greater depth with Ryan Sheather and Daniel Zacek now able to be used more up forward. Sam Morrison and Bryce Kurtzmann are also coming on well as outside midfielders.
With matches against the Lions and Swans in the following two weeks, this week looms as a crucial one in shaping their assault for the finals in the next month. Here they have their best chance of knocking off the defending premiers.
With the lack of recent match practice, keeping it simple should be the order of the day in a match that will prove a strong litmus test for both sides.
Port Macquarie v Coffs Swans
The Swans (second) and Port (fourth) hold their positions by one win under the match ratio system, and this weekend the Coffs-based outfit face the dreaded trip to Stuart Park.
The ground has not been a happy hunting ground for the Swans over the years and while they convincingly beat the Pies last time, the Port are not without a shot this time around.
Saying this, the Swans enjoyed a big win against last-placed Nambucca Valley in their last match. Peter Robinson has worked his way into the middle of the ground and will need to strengthen his combinations with the seasoned Jason Thomas and Dave Colman with the finals fast approaching.
Their forward-line looks sounder with Fraser Duryea creating greater pressure in attack and defence. Along with Evan Duryea, Scott Morgan and the reborn, Tristan Snow, the Swans are more than capable of taking a contested mark.
A fortnight ago, the Magpies were able to match the Saints for three quarters. Having lost a number of experienced stars, Port still has a core component of in-and-under players proven at Senior level. Shannon Skreja and Clayton Miechel are among those with invaluable premiership experience.
Add to this, Jesse Schmidt who is a clever goal kicker, and the likely return of Dean Nankervill and Matt Lill from leg injuries; the Port side looks a lot better but will have to hit the ground running, starting this weekend.
The result will hinge on the opening stages. The Swans will need a quick start to nullify Port, who are a much better side at home.
Nambucca Valley v North Coffs
North Coffs are destined to continue their unbeaten run on Saturday against the Lions at Macksville Park.
The Lions will find it hard to match the stellar Kangaroos midfield with Brad Giri and Sam Dawes sure to get great supply from representative ruckman, Matt Quinlan.
The outside midfielders in Alex Delves and Michael Kerr, along with Tom Merrick, have provided the side with the speed lacking in recent years.
Jordan O’Connor is the main forward for the Kangaroos and will look to add to his five-goal haul against Grafton. The Lions’ premier defender, Jimmy Angel is likely to line up against the strong-leading forward.
Nambucca Valley, have done it tough this season, with the depth not there to support Angel, Aaron Clarke and Luke Benson. After pressuring the Swans in the opening stages, the Lions was unable to stem the onslaught thereafter.
Expect the 'Roos to show them no mercy.