Stakes keep getting higher
WITH five rounds left each match has added significance in the race for the AFL North Coast crown.
Sawtell-Toormina have been pacesetters but suffered their first defeat last week against Breakers.
Nobody expected Saints to go through without dropping at least one match but they'll now be desperate to ensure they don't lose two on the bounce.
Teams often travel to Port under strength but Sawtell can't take any liberties if they are to return to the winners' circle.
Coach Brandt Lee will be issuing a rallying call to make certain a strong line-up travels down the motorway and will be hoping players such as Leif Stuart, Mitch Napier, and Connor Perks are all available.
The Magpies had a fortunate victory last week and will need to perform much better against Saints in a game they must win if they want to stamp themselves as premiership contenders.
They will be desperate to prove to everyone, themselves included, that they can compete with the ladder leaders.
The return of coach Tom Marmo from a knee injury last week was a timely boost for the team.
Club champion Jesse Schmidt is in good form after his own early season injury woes and young Ed Smith has had an outstanding first two weeks to his senior career.
These players can provide the spark that when combined with the consistency of Craig Dicker, Rod Sonogan and Blake Nelson, can lead to a tilt at the title.
Grafton Tigers produced their best performance of the season last week and were desperately unlucky to not come away with the win they crave.
The big question is will this effort provide the inspiration to lift the team to better things?
Or, will they struggle to overcome the disappointment of the one that got away?
Making life tougher for the Tigers is the anticipated loss of Chris Curthoys who was close to best on ground until he suffered a recurrence of a knee injury.
The team has a strong youthful element and the influence of these players is increasing on a weekly basis as they continue to find their feet at this level and get used to the physical demands.
Players such as Kade Bagnall, Ronan Leslie, Evan Whitty, and Clancy O'Neill formed the core of last year's under-18 premiership-winning team and are starting to bring that form to senior.
Tigers host Coffs Harbour Breakers who are coming off their own best effort of 2018.
In the women's match of the round, Port host the powerful Sawtell-Toormina outfit.