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Coaches' call: Hostplus Cup Round 8 preview

Round 8 of the Hostplus Cup will see a top-of-the-table clash unfold between the first-placed Burleigh Bears and third-placed Sunshine Coast Falcons.

Recognising Respect Round this weekend, the Saturday meeting between the two Cup heavyweights is just the tip of the iceberg.

Round 8 will also see the second-placed Mackay Cutters clash with the reigning premiers in the Brisbane Tigers while on Sunday, the Tweed Seagulls and Wynnum Manly Seagulls will meet in a "flockbuster".

Ahead of the weekend, the coaches of the competition share their thoughts on what to expect.

Hostplus Cup Round 8

Mackay Cutters v Brisbane Tigers

Mackay Cutters coach Michael Comerford: In our loss to the Souths Logan Magpies last week, there was a 15 minute period at the start of the game where the warning signs were clear. Both teams scored pretty easily and the writing was on the wall for things to come but it was unfortunate for us that we couldn't put a halt to Souths' momentum. We didn't touch the ball for 15 minutes and it went from 6-all to 30-6 down. You can't expect to win games from that position. There was genuine belief in the side that we could win but hopefully we don't face any tougher scoreboard challenges than that for the rest of the season. There were some positives from the game but not a position we want to put ourselves in regularly. This weekend we have the Tigers, who also had a loss in Round 7. It's going to be interesting to see how both teams approach this one. We were the two best defensive teams heading into last week and yet both conceded pretty hefty points against us. Both teams will have a big week focusing on defence to get back on track. Us and the Tigers have shown we can be resilient in defence.

Brisbane Tigers coach Matt Church: It's always a tough trip down to Tweed and we knew that was coming last weekend but we probably didn't handle going there as a team and one connected unit and that was shown with our display. Obviously we take the learnings out of that but we're moving on quickly. We can't live in the past, we have to move forward. We know that performance is unacceptable and we're looking to bounce back. We want to be resilient... we weren't resilient enough last week. Mackay has much improved performances this year and they'll be happy with the start they've gotten off to. It's a really good venue to play at, it's a good condition for a field. They've strengthened their roster and will challenge you through the middle and play off the back of that ruck speed.


Western Clydesdales v Redcliffe Dolphins

Western Clydesdales coach Jason Alchin: I was really happy with the game against the Devils last week and how we performed. We didn't get the two points but we got in and had a go against a very good side. We're improving, we're getting better and slowly getting rid of our silly mistakes. We're progressing forward and looking to Redcliffe this week. I'm sure Ben (Te'o) will have them up and going from their loss against the Blackhawks. This is the second in a week row we've come up against a Dolphins NRL affiliate side that lost the week before. We're playing against a very good team that doesn't want back-to-back losses. We know what we're in for. We have a couple of young men from our region who made their debut last week and another one this week in Kaden Buhse. He's  been playing A-grade for Gatton and is a Gatton boy, which is great for the region. We know we're in for a hard game but we have to worry about ourselves. It's going to be an interesting game and we're looking forward to it.

Redcliffe Dolphins coach Ben Te'o: We had a good week's preparation leading into last week's loss but I don't think that we matched that the physicality of the Blackhawks. I thought they were outstanding. They beat us in every part. For us, penalties and errors really hurt us in the long run. While we didn't meet the physicality, we did hang in there and were right in the game. It was a back-and-forth game so I was happy we showed that. We have another one on the road this week so we need to get back on track. You can't take teams lightly in Cup, it doesn't matter where they're sitting on the ladder and especially if you're going to their home ground. If you get off the bus with the wrong attitude, you're in for a long day.


Burleigh Bears v Sunshine Coast Falcons

Burleigh Bears coach Luke Burt: We started well again and set up the game against the Hunters last week but I still don't think we have put a full 80 minute performance together, which is a big focus. We've played well in patches but not for 80 minutes. It's a bit of a concentration thing - we've had a lot of points against us in tackles five or six, which is a bit of a concern. So that's been a real focus, especially against the Falcons. It will be a super tough battle. We haven't beaten them in a couple years. They usually get a large contingent of Melbourne Storm players and they have quality players without them anyway. It always makes for a super tough match. We know we need to have that 80 minute performance this weekend.

Sunshine Coast Falcons coach Brad Henderson: It felt really good to get the win last week in Rockhampton. It was really, really physical game. Capras had a great game plan and really got up hard and spoiled our attack and got in our face. It was nice to win that kind of tough game. I was pleased with our win against Townsville the week before but this one even more so. They threw heaps at us and we were able to absorb it. We're building. Getting the same bodies on the field week to week helps as well. It stands to reason that we're going better now than the first few rounds but we've had to play some good footy and that took a while. I wouldn't say there's a high level of confidence but they're problem solving pretty well on their own and sticking to game plans and hanging in there. We know we have to do that against Burleigh this week. If we don't start well, they'll put you away. They throw so much footy at you. They really move the footy and they have really fast and powerful outside backs. They shift the ruck and get you working hard. Our effort areas in defence will get tested and line integrity will get tested. We have to trust we'll be good enough. We just have to win our little moments and hopefully they add up enough. It's hard to go down there and win but we did it last year and hopefully we can do it again.


Central Queensland Capras v Souths Logan Magpies

Central Queensland Capras coach Lionel Harbin: I thought we were really happy with our first half last week and the way we were able to fight and defend and hang in there. The Falcons had a lot of possession and we defended quite well. But unfortunately it took a bit of a gas out of us and they're a really good attacking side and they put us under a lot of pressure. We fought hard but we need to be harder in the way we're approaching our footy, especially in the second half. The Magpies, they have a lot of points in them. They have a big forward pack and we have to be ready defensively. 

Souths Logan Magpies coach Karmichael Hunt: It was a really good effort all round from the boys last weekend, especially after a tough month of footy previously. It hasn't been our best football but I thought against Burleigh in Round 6 we were heading in the right direction and it was good to get a win against Mackay in Round 7. We're still leaking more points than we'd like to but in review, they're quite solvable. It's just about us sticking to our systems for longer and just being able to stay in the grind for longer. Once the ruck gets rolling or we have back-to-back D sets, we just want the boys to embrace it and keep teams away, no matter how long we have to defend. They're doing a good enough job at that but we need to be better. The Capras this week, they're a tough footy team with a real distinct style of play and classy players right across the team. They'll welcome back (Anthony) Milford and some other Dolphins affiliates playing for them as well. We're really looking forward to one of our first genuine away trips of the year. It'll be our first plane trip and we're looking forward to getting up to Rocky.


Tweed Seagulls v Wynnum Manly Seagulls

Tweed Seagulls coach Dave Penna: I'm really happy with our turnaround from the start of the season to now. What we've seen the last few weeks are the things we saw during pre-season. In the first few rounds, we just couldn't execute what we needed to and there were a lot of new players. The boys were working hard but we just weren't completing our sets and were having to tackle too much. If we want to keep working hard, it will turn around for us. We have plenty of hard work ahead but I'm happy with where we're at. This week against Wynnum Manly, they're a great club, well-coached, and it's going to be a really, really tough game. It's daytime, which is different for us as we've had a couple night games now but we're expecting to have to work really, really hard and defend well if we're going to be in with a chance.

Wynnum Manly Seagulls coach Mat Head: It feels a bit like Groundhog Day with the number of byes we've had to start our year. To have another week off last week, it was a bit tough for the boys. But we have 10 games straight now and it's all happening. We know we have a good patch of footy now and we're looking forward to it. We have Tweed away this weekend and they're a very good football team. I'm not sure why they haven't named their Titans players and it's always interesting when teams play cat and mouse. But we're expecting a fast, skillful footy team. We know what we're in for and we're excited to head down there to try to get into it.


Ipswich Jets v Northern Pride

Ipswich Jets coach Ben Cross: The bye last week has given a couple bodies a chance to heal up a bit. We have a few injuries at the moment unfortunately so we're trying to dig deep into our squad. There's patches of games where we're getting into an arm wrestle for longer and longer and we need to sustain that and not be the first team to crack. We had some real good arm wrestles against Tweed in Round 6 but we were the first team that cracked and it's been our Achilles heel. This week, the Pride are a fairly attacking and expansive team. They're following in the mould of the Cowboys and throwing the ball around a lot. Eric (Smith) is an attack-minded coach and they have two NRL halves. They're moving the ball side to side really well. But it will give us opportunities. They do come up with a lot of errors with passing the ball that amount so we have to be defensively good in filling the space and with our line speed.

Northern Pride coach Eric Smith: The bye week was good for us. Going into that break off a good performance against Norths - probably our best performance of the year - it made it even more pleasing. It was our most polished performance and we only lost control for around 10 to 15 minutes. This year so far we've probably shown glimpses and patches of how good of a good football team we can be but not for long enough periods. The challenge now is to make sure we can maintain that kind of football, especially on the road. Our two losses this year have been when we've travelled to Sunshine Coast and Redcliffe. We have to be at that standard we expect not only at home, but away as well. We need to be finding a way to take that standard on the road with us. This week we head to Ipswich. The Jets have been pushing some quality teams in the last few weeks. In their Redcliffe game, they probably did enough to win it, and then the next week, they pushed Burleigh. The Blackhawks only beat them by four and Townsville just beat Redcliffe on the weekend. The Jets are playing good patches and putting pressure on teams. They're also getting good quality players dropping back from the Titans. I'm expecting four or five to drop in come game day. With the Jets, those good patches are going to turn into longer periods of football and they'll be really fighting and pushing teams. We have to turn up in the mindset that Sunday is the day they're going to put it all together. They're at home after a week off themselves. They'll be full of energy, fighting and desperate to get their second win on the board.

Broadcast:, 9Now and Kayo Freebies

Townsville Blackhawks v PNG Hunters

Townsville Blackhawks coach Terry Campese: We haven't won back-to-back games this year so a big focus going into this week's game is maintaining that attitude. We have to keep doing what we've been doing and also learning from what we didn't do well. It's still our discipline at times that is letting us down. We need to learn how to defend our penalties and dropped balls. We haven't been too crash hot in that area. We have to keep on getting better, which we slowly are. We're up against the Hunters this weekend who play a lot of footy off energy - they get quick play-the-balls and they're very powerful and play off the back of that. We need to be on defensively across the field. It's one of our biggest games of the year, playing PNG at home.

PNG Hunters coach Paul Aiton: For me, the biggest takeaway from last week was that we didn't show up to play. You could tell from the first set. I didn't feel it going into the game - I thought everything was positive and good but we just didn't show up on the day. They rolled us in that first set and scored straight away, and to see that body language in response... it just wasn't the game we wanted to see. That game set us back a bit but for me, it's about disregarding that outcome. We go straight back to doing the little things we focused on in our pre-season and what makes us good. We're heading to Townsville and we're expecting a big game. We're looking forward to the trip down there. We haven't won away yet this season so that would be great.


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