Top teams in grand final dress rehearsal
By CHRIS McKINLEY
THIS time last year, clashes between Sawtell and Port Macquarie were considered a grand final preview and tomorrow's clash at Richardson Park could prove to be this year's preview.
The Coffs Swans might disagree as they're building each week towards a strong finals performance but the Pies and Saints seem ready to put on a beauty.
This match will start in the ruck and the victor could be decided by the outcome of this contest.
Three weeks ago, Sawtell's Josh Edwards and Port's Jon Stephens rucked together in the inter-league matches but tomorrow they pit their skills against each other trying to give their team the all important first use of the ball.
In the midfield battle the big question at the moment is: Will Magpies coach Matt Newton play?
Newton missed last week's match due to injury and it's still unknown if he's fit enough for the big game.
If he's not it's a big loss, even though the likes of Daniel Butterfield and Steve Gluyas have been impressive so far.
What is a positive is the return of Tim Donohue.
His in and under hard at the ball style is great to watch but his skills put paid to the theory that he's just all guts.
Sometimes though the Magpies travel as well as Schapelle Corby and they're about to walk into a Sawtell team freshened up from a week's break and keen to get back into the top two to wrap up a double chance.
Every week this column writes about their forward line which is more potent than Hugh Heffner on it's day but it's time to talk up one of their unsung heroes.
Defender Rowan Dagger isn't the most stylish man running around but he gets the job done with rubber arms that constantly spoil at the last moment ala Stephen Silvagni.
His task tomorrow will be to stop John Bain who kicked seven goals last week.
I'm backing the defender to do it because when push comes to shove, it's a dour backman you want in a trench next to you, not a pretty boy forward.
TIP: Sawtell by 19 points.
This weekend's AFL matches (tips in bold):
Tonight: Kangaroos v Essendon.
Saturday: Melbourne v Port Adelaide, St Kilda v Hawthorn.
Saturday night: Brisbane Lions v Carlton, Sydney v Fremantle.
Sunday: Adelaide v Geelong, Richmond v Collingwood, West Coast v Western Bulldogs.