Saints march on Grafton with top spot in their sights
ANOTHER intriguing round of AFL North Coast footy lies ahead as teams jostle for dominance on the field and on the ladder.
Following this round, each senior team will have played every opponent once and pundits will be in the best position yet to gauge the relative merits of each club’s premiership chances.
To the winner of the match between Grafton Tigers and Sawtell Toormina Saints goes the honour of top spot on the ladder.
In any other season this would see them crowned early favourites, but in this condensed year we are already rapidly approaching the midway mark.
To date, the competition looks set to be one of the closest in memory with all clubs fighting hard and no easy points on offer.
This match will be no different – Grafton come in with a record of two wins, one narrow loss, while Saints are unbeaten after two matches (plus a bye).
Both teams are brimming with young talent that will be able to focus solely on this top flight encounter after the under-17 fixture was postponed.
Grafton’s youngsters are benefiting hugely from a core group of experienced players setting the tempo and winning the hard balls has been key to the team’s rejuvenation in 2020.
Back at home key inclusions include Ben and Chris Holder and Evan Whitty, with the team nearing full strength.
The Saints are in a similar position, however, their core group of experienced players are in their early to mid-20s. Overall, this gives Sawtell what is possibly the youngest average age of any of the teams in the competition.
Matthew Zerna has been cleared from Tasmania and looks as though he’ll be a handy acquisition for the club.
The match between Coffs Harbour Breakers and Port Macquarie Magpies is equally as compelling.
The first grand final rematch of the season features two teams whose fortunes haven’t turned around just yet.
Reigning premiers Breakers are winless from two games in an unexpected slow start to the season.
Digging deeper, the club is yet to put a team on the park that’s close to full strength and will certainly welcome back Shaydan Close from a spell on the Gold Coast.
Breakers need to get runs on the board quickly and will have marked this home match as a must win. Expect to see the Breakers playing with real desperation to get their season properly underway.
Port claimed their first win last week with a nailbiting triumph over Grafton.
The overwhelming feeling around the club was one of relief, not just because the match nearly slipped away, but also because the predominantly new playing group now has tangible proof that they can be competitive in 2020.
Next challenge for Port is to win away from home, and that won’t be easy against a determined Breakers at Fitzroy Oval.
In the women’s competition, Coffs Harbour are at home to traditional rivals Sawtell Toormina.
The Breakers have had two strong wins from two starts and have already marked themselves as a huge premiership threat.
After the disappointment of last year’s finals campaign the team will be looking to push on ruthlessly and make sure that this year is their time in the sun.
Breakers have the bye next round and will want to head into that mini-break
Sawtell have to respond to a double challenge. Not only do they have to find a way to beat the dominant team in the season to date, they also have to back up from a tough game on Wednesday night. The club has picked up a number of players from Port Macquarie, with three of these unable to make the mid week trip, and the team will be looking to these players to lead the way with their fresh legs.