HERVEY Bay Seagulls have had the wood over two-time defending champions Past Brothers all year.
Their 34-14 loss to them after leading 14-4 at half-time in last year’s preliminary final will be an extra motivating factor when the two sides meet in the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership qualifying final at Across The Waves Sports Complex tomorrow at 5pm.
The Seagulls racked up a half-century of points in their first two clashes with the Brethren this season, 54-32 at home on April 2, and 54-16 at Salter Oval on May 21.
But the blue and whites escaped with an honourable 16-16 draw at Stafford Park last time they crossed swords on June 18.
With “lessons learnt” in their preliminary final exit, their coach Jacob Blanke has continued to rest top players during the past month, in a bid to ensure they are full strength and ready to carry them to the title.
Teams for tomorrow are yet to be named, but after last week’s tough 12-6 home loss to Waves, which clinched the Tigers the minor premiership, Blanke said he expected a couple of players to return tomorrow, but a few would probably still be missing.
Brothers’ form has been patchy all season, although they looked good in ending Waves’ nine-game winning streak with an emphatic 40-18 victory over them two weeks ago, and while they also beat Wests Panthers 46-12 last week, nothing can be read from that result as the Panthers had a bare 13 players with very much a patch-work team.
Earlier, the Panthers will square off against Easts Magpies in the elimination final at 3pm.
Last year’s beaten grand finalists Easts started the new season “like a house on fire”, but they were upset by the Seagulls 42-38 in the third round on April 9, and a 14-12 defeat at the hands of Wests two games later on May 7 was the start of five straight defeats, including a second stumble against the Panthers 32-24 on June 12, and an alarming 14-all draw with minnows Wallaroos.
They then, however, returned to their best, notching three straight wins, against Hervey Bay 20-18, Brothers 26-16, and Wests 26-22 to re-emerge as contenders, but they paid the price for having many of their stars absent for their showdown with Wallaroos last Saturday, being blown away 48-18.
The Panthers have lost their past five matches, and while their confidence will be low and teamwork likely to be disjointed with so many of their trumps having not played together for a while, at full strength, they are loaded with power and skill across the field, and they are capable of beating any side.
Toowoomba A Grade Round 15 previews
Saturday, July 30
6pm: Southern Suburbs Tigers v Toowoomba Brothers, Gold Park
Finally a game these two clubs can get their teeth into.
Bragging rights are at stake with Souths on seven points on the Toowoomba Rugby League ladder, with Brothers on five points.
Brothers have a much better for-and-against than Souths so the winner of this match will have plenty to fight for and there is nothing better than an old rivalry.
Both teams have capable packs and smart backs but both clubs have also been disappointing this season.
6.30pm: Dalby Diehards v Warwick Cowboys, Dalby Rugby League Football Club
Both these clubs are in with a show for finals action this season.
This game is certainly very important, especially for Warwick. If they win, they are two points out of the five, with Dalby currently in fifth position.
This game has just as much weight on the result for Dalby, as they prepare to play Goondiwindi in Goondiwindi next week.
Saturday night at Dalby is a tough ask but on form, Warwick are favourites in this one.
The bench is the key in this one. Both have good impact players. Dalby’s Joe Mua played well when he came on last week and Dan Conn has been excellent for Warwick this season.
Key players are Harry Sullivan for Warwick and Xander Dunemann for Dalby.
They are both impact players and can change momentum quickly.
Last week’s Warwick v Gatton was a quality game. Warwick had a good completion rate whereas Dalby’s completion rate, whilst not too bad, could have been better.
This will be a ripper of a match with plenty on the line.
Sunday, July 31
2.30pm: Oakey Bears v Toowoomba Valleys Roosters, Trevor Mickleborough Oval
This is a danger game for the Roosters.
Oakey are much better than their 40-12 loss to Valleys in Round 4 and they are at home this time.
It will be a similar game as the Gatton v Oakey battle a couple of rounds ago. The Bears learnt what they have to do to compete against these top sides. They need to start well, play for the whole 80 minutes and make sure their defensive communication is on song.
Leevai Sutton the key for the Oakey. If Easthope and Lopamaua can get the Bears some momentum, than Sutton, Adamson and Namana can do their stuff.
Valleys will come to play in this game as there is too much at stake for them.
They are gifted with many top line players. Whilst by their own admission, they have not gelled well as a team early in the season, they have turned that around against Dalby and they are playing very well.
Turnbull, Diment and Chown are the key on the back of their excellent play makers and front rowers.
2.30pm: Gatton Hawks v Newtown Lions, Cahill Park Sports Complex
Gatton will certainly flex their muscles in this clash.
But the game of the day for me is the Under 19 clash. Gatton have only lost one game this season and that has been to Ipswich Brothers 22-24 in Round 4. I suggest both sides have improved since those early rounds
2.30pm: Wattles Warriors v Highfields Eagles, Platz Oval, Clifton
This is probably the most anticipated match of the season.
It does not get any better. The match ups are what dreams are made of.
Jackson Green v Jarrod Lee, McGrady/Bainbridge v Burns/Duggan, Tom Hatch v Kai Duggan, Jennings/Van Der Poel v Waites/Clement, Josh Keoller v Dale Perkins.
They all are such talented players. Both sides are fit and play for 80 minutes.
Who can forget their 32-25 epic at the same ground in week two of last year’s final series? The Eagles got the chocolates that day.
Wattles have scored 278 points in their last four games, whereas Highfields have scored 180 points. They both can score heaps of points but it is the defence in these games that win.
It is the side that can lower the temptation for the referee to award penalties against them that will go a long way to winning the match.
Both teams are such competitors, especially in the ruck. In fact, they probably cancel each other out.
It’s the special players that make the difference that will win this match. Whether that be a Travis Burns 40/20 or a Cory McGrady/Jarrod Lee combination raid.
Maybe an Austin Jennings special or a Josh Fanning game changer.
Irrespective, this will be one of the games of the season.
2.30pm: Goondiwindi Boars v Pittsworth Danes, Gilbert Oval, Goondiwindi
A big ask for the Danes in this one.
Goondiwindi are going along nicely. They will need to keep their foot on the pedal as they have a huge finish to the regular season where they play Dalby, Wattles and Highfields in the coming rounds.
The Boars have not changed too much from last season and they will show Pittsworth why in this match.
Hero photo: Dual premiership winning captain Kevin Sherriff will be a key man for Past Brothers in their qualifying clash with Hervey Bay Seagulls tomorrow.