With seven rounds to go in the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership, this weekend’s matches will have a big bearing on the make-up of the top five sides for the finals.
In the one game tomorrow, competition leaders Hervey Bay Seagulls will be hot favourites to go on their winning ways against Wallaroos at Eskdale Park at 5pm, but with their Maryborough sister-club sixth and last on the ladder, four points behind joint fourth-placed Easts Magpies and Wests Panthers, they must win to keep their hopes alive.
At Salter Oval on Sunday, it should be a battle royale at 1.30pm in the East v West high-stakes showdown, with the winner to stay in the race for the top two, but the loser to be consigned to a probable fight to secure a play-offs berth.
Then at 3pm, second-placed Waves Tigers, another of the form teams of the competition, can take a giant step towards a top-two finish if they are able to turn the tables on two-time defending champions Past Brothers, who are in third position, three points behind them.
The Seagulls plucked their Fraser Coast rivals 56-8 when they last met on May 7, and they have continued to go from strength to strength, but Roos have improved since, kick-starting their season with a 36-30 ambush of Brothers a fortnight ago, before being magnificent in a 34-22 defeat at the hands of Waves, also at their home fortress last Saturday.
With also three more of their last six games at home, if they can somehow stop the Seagulls juggernaut tomorrow, the pride of the Heritage City will be well placed to challenge for fifth spot, but another loss would make it even more difficult to avoid a second straight wooden spoon, and Dan Sommerfeld has his troops primed for combat.
The Panthers edged out the Magpies 14-12 at their May 7 meeting, but neither side has won since, with Wests losing to Waves 28-16 and Hervey Bay 32-16, and Easts limping to a rare-hat-trick of losses, also going down to Waves 22-4 and Brothers 50-32, after trailing 28-0 late in the first half last Sunday.
Both sides are loaded with match winners, but the pressure is more on last year’s beaten grand finalists Easts under their BRL A Grade Player of the Year for the past two seasons Matt Craven.
In his first year with the added role as coach, many had tipped them to go one better in 2022.
But they have continued a slide down the pecking order since winning three of their first four matches, and goal kicking the difference between the two sides in a 42-38 stumble at the hands of the Baysiders in their first loss.
Brothers accounted for Waves 28-16 in that May 7 round, but scored five tries to four, with the Tigers not kicking any conversions.
The premiers were then put to the sword by the Seagulls 54-16, before their shock loss to Roos, then turning it on against the Magpies when triple premiership-winning captain and lock Kevin Sherriff was at his vintage best, while the Tigers have roared to those wins over Magpies, Panthers, and Roos.
Waves coach Antonio Kaufusi has worked hard on their defence, and they are the best in the business in that department, having conceded just 160 points, while Brothers are the second worst, having let in 280, just four fewer than Roos.
Sunday will be a true test as to exactly where the two sides are at, with the winner able to confirm themselves as genuine contenders.
Main image: Hervey Bay halfback David Woodbridge has been a key man as the Seagulls have established themselves at the top of the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership table, being among their best week-in-week out and racking up 78 points so far with five tries and 29 goals. Photo: Vince Habermann/QRL
Toowoomba Round 9 previews
This amazing season continues this weekend with positions up for grabs to play off for mid-season trophies Madsen Rasmussen and Presidents Cup.
The main contenders
A GRADE: It’s either Wattles, Gatton or Highfields in a number of scenarios.
RESERVE GRADE: It’s Highfields v Wattles in this season’s mid-season final.
WOMEN: Gatton will play Newtown in the inaugural Presidents Cup.
UNDER 19: Gatton are favourites to defeat Wattles and should be one finalist. The other position is up for grabs with Brothers Ipswich (v Warwick), Dalby (v Redbank), Highfields (v Valleys) and Valleys (v Highfields). Simply, if Brothers Ipswich defeat Warwick, they are in. Valleys have the better for and against, but Highfields will be keen to defend their title.
Saturday June 11
6.30pm: Oakey Bears v Goondiwindi Boars, Trevor Mickleborough Oval, Oakey
Oakey will be encouraged after their performance last week against the Danes.
They are staying together as a team and have not had too many changes and that’s the way to approach where they are at in this competition.
Defence is the key for them. Whilst their field will still be improved, it will be soft and that may help them against the Boars.
The Boars have played every top side so far this season and looked tired last weekend.
They have enough in their culture to bounce back in this game. They’ll know that they get no special favors from Oakey as the Bears always put up a good showing against them.
6.30pm: Gatton Hawks v Wattles Warriors, Cahill Park Sports Complex, Gatton
Madsen Rasmussen spot up for grabs in this match.
Gatton are on a high after last weekend’s win over the premiers whilst Wattles were good against a determined Diehards outfit.
This will be a great contest. Hawks have consistency this season and they keep the opposition guessing all game. However, Wattles will be ready for the challenge.
In both teams, their “non-star” players are being noticed.
Joel Brett, Kaden Bushe and Isiah Walden were noticed last weekend while Kai Duggan, Mitch Bourke and Mitch Duff made a difference against the Diehards.
Gatton’s forwards are the key - their big men seem fitter this season and they will be a handful for the Warriors.
Wattles will appreciate a dry track, touch wood, as Austin Jennings must be frustrated not having non-wet grounds.
6.30pm: Toowoomba Valleys Roosters v Highfields Eagles, John McDonald Sports Complex
Roosters v Eagles matches are not for the fainthearted.
Both sides will be at full strength, with whispers Valleys will have Dwayne Duncan back and are set to have their best side on the field as they attempt a fifth win in a row.
It’s the new combinations of Diment, Currie and Wheeler that are proving successful. Instead of the normal combinations they’ve had over the years, these young fellas have been excellent for them and a breath of fresh air.
Highfields also have players returning with Matt Prose but unfortunately Jarrod Lee still has a wrist injury and won’t be playing. Irrespective, they're quality Eagles players, with Bainbridge and McGrady combining well these last few weeks especially. The Clement brothers have settled in nicely and with Prowse and Nolan having a good combination, they will be ready.
It will be freezing on Saturday night. The corresponding match last season was freezing and Valleys got the chocolates 34-10 that night after leading 18-0 at half time.
The two sides are different this year but they still are in form at the moment. It will be a good measure of where these teams are at.
Sunday June 12
3pm: Dalby Diehards v Southern Suburbs Tigers, Dalby Leagues Club
Dalby can still take plenty out of last week’s game. They just faulted in the last 10 minutes and will appreciate a dryer track this Sunday.
But let’s not underestimate Souths in this one. They have always given Diehards something to think about. Both sides have improved from last season and this will be a very good battle.
The forwards battle is the key. Maiden and Waters have gone well. But for Souths, their back three of McCormack, Murphy and Petersen have been the glue that’s kept the team focused.
If Souths' outside backs can keep up with Franciscus and co. they’ll be in with a show.
Riley Wilson and Braith Ashurst have been very good out of dummy half and Ben Howard has been safe under the high ball. Their interchange of Fletcher and Carr have been playing well off the bench. The Tigers just need to complete their sets.
It’s a real test for Souths. They are good team and, on their day, can win. Winning is contagious. They’ve tasted it this season and can again.
Dalby meanwhile are tough at home. They've proven this season they are the real deal.
Wassell and Franciscus are so valuable for them. They’ll have a dry track which will suit Babington, Dunemann and Gaur. Their depth has been strong this year and with Tavita Folau playing so well in the middle last week, they will be confident.
3pm: Toowoomba Brothers v Pittsworth Danes, Glenholme Park
Leprechauns v Danes games are always good contests. Both clubs have had indifferent form this season with only one win each. They are better teams than their positions on the ladder reflect.
Game management is the key for Brothers. They do play well at home and if they feed off that, they will be in this one.
The Danes have been competitive all season without letting scores get away from them. That is their advantage over Brothers. They have a good side with their young players like Little and Moy standing up.
2.30pm: Newtown Lions v Warwick Cowboys, Jack Martin Centre
It was great to see former NRL star Ash Taylor lending a hand at the Lions match last weekend. Congratulations Ash on giving back to the game in our region.
Newtown are on the right track. Belief and confidence in being competitive will be the key. They have the right people around them to move forward.
But the Cowboys are coming off a loss. They’ll rebound in this one.