Last round looms

With one round to go in the home and away season all four teams will be using their match as a chance to tune up ahead of the Finals.

Coffs Breakers have the Minor Premiership safely stowed in the cabinet and will be looking for a solid hit out ahead of a week’s rest in the first week of the Finals Series. Breakers are at full strength and will see the game against Grafton Tigers as a perfect opportunity to prepare for the challenging matches ahead. Coach Nic von Schill is likely to mix and match his line-up to try several different combinations that may be called upon if a plan B is needed when the season is on the line.

Grafton’s season has been a polar opposite to that of the Breakers. A promising start in comparison to recent, lean years, highlighted by the team’s first win in two seasons, quickly petered out to a series of bad losses. Last week’s improved performance on the long road trip to Port suggested that a corner could yet be turned and that a surprise could be sprung during the Finals. The Tigers know they can depend on players such as Luke Stanford, Pat Curtain, and Sam Hardes and need to find the consistency in performance that has been missing to date.

Sawtell Toormina Saints is a club that prides itself on bringing its A game to the big matches, so the whole club was stung by the size and nature of last week’s loss to the Breakers. Coach Luke Matthews was so disappointed with the performance that he cancelled Tuesday night’s training and instead scheduled a compulsory video session where the match against the Breakers was dissected.  Saints will be boosted by the return of Hamish Bird and Matt Dwyer, while Leif Stuart will be better for last week’s run after a lengthy injury layoff. Club champion Mark Couzens is celebrating a personal milestone and the club will be looking to help him celebrate.

Port came within 5 points of Sawtell a fortnight ago and will take a number of positives from that effort. They backed up that performance with a tradesman like win over Grafton last week and are finally starting to show glimpses of being the Magpies of past seasons. They know their season goes on the line next week and will be keen to head into the Finals with winning form. Fraser Carroll played his best match in the Seniors last time out to give the club the lift from its younger brigade that it has desperately needed and coach Anthony Beasley will be hoping that other youngsters follow this lead.

Round 16 fixtures – Saturday 5 August

Grafton Tigers v Coffs Breakers, Ellem Oval, Grafton at 2:20pm

Port Macquarie Magpies v Sawtell Toormina Saints, Wayne Richards Park, Port Macquarie at 2:20pm