Sawtell's toughest test yet?
Sawtell/Toormina v North Coffs
With finals just around the corner, this match provides the perfect opportunity for both sides to iron out any chinks in their armour at Richardson Park.
Sawtell will finish the season as minor premiers, with the Kangaroos odds on to hold down second and first shot at the Saints in the finals series.
There are no doubts over the credentials of these two sides. Sawtell come into the clash after belting a hapless Swans outfit at Fitzroy Oval. At the same time, they, like Geelong, are a step down from their full potential but seem well placed for another tilt at the flag.
North Coffs have played just as well, if not better than the Saints since their last encounter. They have consistently notched up triple figure scores in attack and have been more consistent in the midfield.
Obviously, this match presents a much tougher task and the North Coffs hierarchy will be under no illusions there are improvements to be made in every department.
A major difference between the two sides in recent outings is the ability to read the player. Sawtell have always been a step ahead of the Kangaroos who tend to hunt in packs.
They can get away with this against the lesser sides, especially with the ball winning ability of Josh Drum and Brad Giri, but they have fallen away late in contests against Sawtell’s defensive structures.
The Kangaroos have developed their attack well. Daniel Pritchard and his defensive unit will have their hands full against Ryan Turner and Trent Cook who ran riot over Nambucca last week.
The midfield battle again is pivotal to the result. North Coffs simply need to win the clearances given the attacking variety provided by Mark Couzens and Les Cohen, as well as figurehead, Ben Hooke.
A win provides the victor with an important psychological advantage. North Coffs should be hell bent on winning to gain some belief out of beating the leader of the pack.
Grafton v Coffs Swans
The Swans’ senior side turned out of their worst performances in recent memory and face oblivion if they fail to stop the rot this weekend at Ellem Oval.
The club spirit within some players on the club’s books needs some serious questioning after they were only able to field nineteen players against Sawtell.
One would hope they show more character against the bottom-placed side because the potential is there to trouble the middle-tier sides.
Ben Miller and Darby Pearce should return to add some much-needed impetus to the Swans midfield.
The attack can be potent if the ball can find its way into the hands of Kris Rundell and Evan Duryea in open space.
Grafton are not travelling a great deal better but have been competitive at home.
They were soundly beaten by a more skilled Magpies side, despite the inclusion of Dale Beaver. If Beaver plays, Grafton are well in with a chance of beating the Swans.
They are a workman-like side across the board, with Justin Darby and Jarrod Meade the only other players likely to cause the opposition headaches.
Grahame Connolly is again important in the ruck duels and also around the ground, especially in general play helping out in defence.
Both sides will be keen to plug the leak in goals conceded. It is a hard task on the small confines of this ground, but the side able to show accountability in defence and steel in the midfield will go a long way to winning this match.
Port Macquarie v Nambucca Valley
Port Macquarie continue to loom as the dark horse of the competition and should account for Nambucca Valley at Stuart Park.
While they would prefer to sit in second and have the double chance at their disposal, they are building nicely towards another finals campaign.
They easily disposed of Grafton in what could well have been a tricky road trip for the Magpies side.
Their attack, like North Coffs, is developing into a potent weapon. Greg Conway is providing more support to their A-grade players in Jesse Schmidt and Matt Lill.
Nambucca Valley’s star has fallen in the last month after a strong start to the season.
They are really struggling to kick a winning score, with Aaron Clarke the only consistent goal kicker. He along with Monty Schmidt must have sore shoulders from carrying most of the team judging by their recent performances.
The talent is no doubt there, but the side is bereft of confidence and structure to trouble their opposition.
Their assignment is no easier this weekend against the meanest defence in the League. Without Dean Nankervill, Craig Dicker and Greg Dean have excelled in the back six and look likely to add the Lions to their list of scalps this season.