Battle lines drawn: It’s another top of the table clash for North Coffs and Sawtell.
Battle lines drawn: It’s another top of the table clash for North Coffs and Sawtell.

Sawtell Saints have upper hand

NORTH Coffs will look to overturn an unfavourable recent head-to-head record against the undefeated Sawtell at the Coffs Coast Leisure Park.

The Saints have not lost to the Kangaroos since the start of 2009, and have been particularly impressive leading into the mid-season break.

In comparison, North Coffs has been inconsistent despite sitting in second place. A win against Grafton in Round 6 showed an improvement and will look to continue their upward curve with another finals campaign beckoning.

Amazingly, from these sides only Brad Giri (North Coffs) and Daniel Pritchard (Saints) lined up in last weekend’s Interleague clash against the Tamworth AFL. A primary reason is the lingering injuries on either side of the fence. Levi Sands (knee), Ben Hooke (shoulder), Mark Couzens (hamstring) and Elliott Schmidt (appendix) were among those who missed the clash.

The Kangaroos can only learn from their 31-point defeat in their last encounter.

They were in with a big chance at three-quarter-time only to see the Saints’ class prevail in the final term.

The match will again be won and lost in the midfield.

North Coffs ruckman Trent Freebody faces a tough task and requires strong support from his small men. Josh Drum and Tom Campbell are defensive midfielders capable of winning the clearances.

Sawtell are particularly strong in this area. Simon Taylor and Luke Matthews have been reliable performers this season to date. Ethan Kelly is another to come of age in his first full year in the top grade.

Darren Funston will lead the backline with Glen Golsby-Smith likely to line-up again against Ben Hooke in a pivotal duel. Courtney Tune and Jack Gillingham are others the ’Roos will have to watch in the back-half.

The forward line has been led this season by Ryan Turner. Turner kicked five goals in the corresponding clash and will need more impact from Brendan Norton and Jason Mayer for the Kangaroos to get over the line.

One can argue there is more at stake for the Kangaroos as they try to hold onto second place on the competition ladder.



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