Round 9 Preview
North Coffs v Port Macquarie
Some wins are worth more than the four points, with this match looming as a mini-final between two evenly-matched sides at the Coffs Coast Leisure Park.
Rewind back to a month ago, and it was Port who defeated North Coffs by a solitary point in one of the best games of the season.
Since then, Port have gained ground on the ladder, and last weekend, leapfrogged the Kangaroos into second place. The Kangaroos will be hell-bent on regaining that spot and go a step closer to securing a double chance in the finals.
Individually, the Magpies are the better outfit with key players across every line. Michael Kemp, on his day, is the best ruckman and one of the most dangerous players in the competition.
The commitment of Kurt Connelly is a worry and even with Trent Freebody as a capable secondary ruckman, the Kangaroos will struggle to challenge for the premiership without him.
The Magpies won well last weekend against Nambucca. Their forward line has greater potency with Matthew Lill playing more as a small forward, and Greg Conway becoming a more regular scorer. This allows Jesse Schmidt to add some steel along with Shannon Skreja in the midfield.
North Coffs is strong in this area, and were gallant in their loss to Sawtell. Despite missing Connolly, Brad Giri and Josh Drum were serviceable against a centre division with greater depth.
For the home side to prevail, Dean and Darren Funston need to have big games. They are two players that help direct the Kangaroos and have the leadership capabilities to prevent the momentary fadeouts their side is prone to against the top sides.
Either way, it promises to be a top day of football with all three grades on show. Port will travel with strong numbers, with both sides showcasing a wealth of experience and a desire to win.
Nambucca Valley v Coffs Swans
Another important match will be staged down the Pacific Highway at Macksville Park between two sides after fourth spot and a probable finals spot.
The Swans were very impressive albeit against weak opposition at home last weekend. They are obviously strengthened with Evan Duryea, who is best suited at half-forward, as was evident when he kicked ten goals against the Tigers.
Their midfield also got a big tick with Dane Kennedy and Kris Rundell dominant in the clearances. Kennedy is one of the players blossoming under Rundell’s leadership.
Craig Dickinson has returned to AFL and joined the Swans after a promising junior career and impressed straight away in a utility role.
Nambucca would be disappointed with their efforts at home last start.
They were made to look slow and will need to avoid the same mistake against the Swans who play-on wherever possible.
The Swans need to quell the influence of Aaron Clarke. They should be well placed to do this with fellow Representative ruckman, Ben Miller in form, as is backman, Peter Robinson, if Clarke moves to half-forward.
The midfield duel will again be important to the end result. Luke Benson and Monty Schmidt are strong defensive midfielders and will be required to reduce the number of Swans’ clearances.
The Swans have a strong recent record and the trump players to start the match as favourites.
Sawtell v Grafton
It is Sponsors’ Day at Richardson Park and the Saints are about to put on a show.
The Saints came out of a tough battle with North Coffs with an impressive six-goal victory to continue their unbeaten run.
Their midfield won the battle over four quarters with Simon Taylor and Jack Gillingham withstanding the physical pressure to put in strong individual performances.
Luke Matthews and Courtney Tune, as well as Mark Couzens, round off the stellar midfield.
The story isn’t as rosy up at Grafton, as they suffered their worst loss of the season away to the Swans.
They were admittedly without their best three players in Daniel Zacek, Jarrod Meade and Justin Darby, but were never in the contest and it will be the same story in this match.
They desperately need some pace in their forward line, and their midfield to simply work hard in defence.
Kodie O’Malley is a player of promise for the Grafton outfit but needs more contributors to allow him to spend more time up forward.
Sawtell in a canter.