This Saturday's clash between Atherton and Innisfail is expected to be a real cracker. Photo: Maria Girgenti

Round 18 of Cairns District Rugby League competition sets up a tantalising clash between Atherton Roosters and Innisfail Leprechauns this Saturday in their final home game of the season at Mungalli Creek Dairy Stadium.

The road to the finals is heating up in the final three regular rounds with only one point separating both sides, currently sitting third and fourth on the ladder.

The top five positions are tight with Mossman-Port Douglas two points clear of Yarrabah, closely followed by Innisfail, Atherton and Cairns Brothers.

Last weekend, Atherton battled with injuries but hung on for a 34 - 16 win against Edmonton at Petersen Park while Innisfail had a bye.

Fourth placed Atherton Roosters will clash with Innisfail Leprechauns in their final home game of the season on Saturday. Photo: Maria Girgenti
Fourth placed Atherton Roosters will clash with Innisfail Leprechauns in their final home game of the season on Saturday. Photo: Maria Girgenti

Ladder leaders Mossman-Port Douglas are the competition front runners after notching up their 12th straight win against Kangaroos in what the side described as one of their toughest games this season.

The Roosters had a flying start to the season with wins in the first three rounds against Mareeba, Edmonton and Innisfail.

When both sides met back in Round 3 for the Mayor's Challenge at Callendar Park, Atherton ended Innisfail's two game winning streak with a 26 - 12 victory to retain the trophy.

This Saturday's Round 18 clash between Atherton Roosters and Innisfail Leprechauns is expected to be a tough and physical battle. Photo: Maria Girgenti
This Saturday's Round 18 clash between Atherton Roosters and Innisfail Leprechauns is expected to be a tough and physical battle. Photo: Maria Girgenti

After 17 rounds, Atherton has registered 10 wins, five losses and two byes, while Innisfail has had nine wins, three losses, three draws and two byes.

After a 10-point defeat at the hands of Mossman-Port Douglas in Round 12, Innisfail has registered four wins in a row against Kangaroos, Ivanhoes, Cairns Brothers and Tully.

Since a narrow loss to Mossman-Port Douglas in Round 14, Atherton has hit some late form with three straight wins against Edmonton, Cairns Brothers and Kangaroos.

Atherton are missing four of their key players in Caleb Foster, Willem Foster, Luke La Rosa and James Clark which has made a huge difference.

Roosters coach Graham Clark Snr said he hoped to have some players back this week, such as Matthew Wybird, Lachlan Payne and Kobe Martin.

He will also draw on three of his reserve grade players James Pedro, Darcey Lacey and Under 18s coach Sam Harreman.

This Saturday's game between Atherton and Innisfail is expected to produce a tight tussle between both teams. Photo: Maria Girgenti
This Saturday's game between Atherton and Innisfail is expected to produce a tight tussle between both teams. Photo: Maria Girgenti

Clark said he was keeping team positions as consistent as possible and that they would come up with a game plan best suited to them.

Both sides are expected to be tested on the playing field, especially if conditions are cold and wet and no doubt Innisfail will be looking to reverse the Round 3 result.

This Saturday's clash between Atherton and Innisfail is expected to be a real cracker for footy fans. Photo: Maria Girgenti
This Saturday's clash between Atherton and Innisfail is expected to be a real cracker for footy fans. Photo: Maria Girgenti

On Tuesday, Clark said his boys had a good hit out at training where they worked on line speed with lots of up and down and forward and backwards, as well as plenty of contact.

The boys also had a heavy session in the gym preparing their bodies for huge physical contact.

At Thursday's training session, Clark said they would work more on their game plan with defence and testing some plays they thought would be able to expose their opposition.

Innisfail's Lata Fakalelu will no doubt prove a challenge for Atherton when both sides meet in Saturday's clash. Photo: Maria Girgenti
Innisfail's Lata Fakalelu will no doubt prove a challenge for Atherton when both sides meet in Saturday's clash. Photo: Maria Girgenti

"Obviously, they are a big pack so we don't want to be defending on our line so our positional play will be important," Clark said. 

Innisfail coach Leon Hallie said this Saturday's game would be a tough game, especially with Atherton on their home turf.

"They are a good side that play smart football, so we will really have to be on our game to beat them," Hallie said. 

The coach said at training this week, the boys had concentrated more on what they wanted to do with the footy, rather than targeting any particular areas.

This Saturday, third placed Innisfail Leprechauns travel up the hill and go up against Atherton Roosters who are sitting fourth on the ladder. Photo: Maria Girgenti
This Saturday, third placed Innisfail Leprechauns travel up the hill and go up against Atherton Roosters who are sitting fourth on the ladder. Photo: Maria Girgenti

"After last week's bye, we are just focusing on getting back into playing footy and each week are always looking to improve as we head into the finals," Hallie said.

Lachlan Biondi-Odo will not play against Atherton due to an ankle injury sustained against Kangaroos.

There is likely to be some changes to the team that faced Kangaroos, but Hallie said the final squad probably would not be decided until Friday.

Under 18s kicks off at 4pm, followed by Reserve Grade at 5.30pm and A Grade at 7pm.

ROOSTERS v INNISFAIL