GRUDGE MATCH: North Mackay were 31-point victors when the Saints and Hawks last met in Round 16 last season.
GRUDGE MATCH: North Mackay were 31-point victors when the Saints and Hawks last met in Round 16 last season. Daniel McKenzie

Saints, Hawks to reprise rivalry built on finals feuds

Aussie rules: Make no mistake. These two teams do not like each other.

But they do share a mutual respect.

There is no bigger rivalry in the AFL Mackay competition than that between Mackay City and North Mackay - at least not over the past two decades.

The Saints went marching to five premierships between 2001 and 2008 and were the premier club of that decade.

But the next dynasty belonged to the Hawks; four flags in six seasons from 2011 to 2016 confirmed that unofficial title.

Since their 108-point demolition of the Eastern Swans in the 2008 grand final, the Saints have failed to taste A-Grade premiership success.

On three occasions since then, it was the Hawks who consigned them to an early finals exit.

In 2011 it was by three points in the second semi-final; 2015 was a 56-point Hawks victory in the prelim and most recently, the Saints were defeated by 11 points at the same stage in 2017.

The Hawks have had the wood over their cross-town rivals since 2011. But the pendulum has swung again in favour of the Saints.

Mackay City coach Brad Best believes North Mackay are the team to beat this season, owing to their impressive performances over the first month of competition.

By comparison the Hawks are in a self-branded rebuilding phase, having lost the majority of the playing group which took them to the summit most recently in 2016.

The Saints will enter tomorrow's contest as heavy favourites to extend their winning streak to four from four - but underestimate the Hawks at your own peril.

"As a player you step up that little bit more than what you would against anyone else,” Best said.

"It's two very strong clubs that don't take a backwards step and that's how it's been since I've been at the club.

"Guys grow an extra leg for these types of games.”

Best said the rivalry stemmed from years of meeting each other at the pointy end of the season.; irrespective of where the two sides sit on the ladder at any given time, their rivalry remains significant.

"Through that mid-2000s everyone wanted to be like the Saints,” he said.

"During this last decade everyone wanted to be like us. It's the tos and fros . . . and the Saints are going to be thereabouts this year.

"For us there's still a lot of question marks. We're still trying to find our feet, but in regards to these types of games you just get up for them.”

After a heavy week one loss to Bakers Creek, the Hawks responded with a 30-point win over Whitsunday last time out.

Best was realistic in his expectations of his group against the Saints.

"All I'm asking for the guys is just to improve every week,” he said.

"Yes we want to win every week, but the reality is it's not going to happen.

"We've got a few KPIs I set out on the board and it's a matter of ticking those.”

AFL Mackay Allied Pickfords Cup Round 4

Saturday (2.45pm) - Bakers Creek Tigers v Moranbah Bulldogs at Etwell Park

Saturday (2.45pm) - Whitsunday Sea Eagles v Eastern Swans at Whitsunday Sports Park

Saturday (3pm) - North Mackay Saints v Mackay City Hawks at Zeolla Park



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