ONE SURVIVOR: The Saints and Magpies are about to share drinks at the Last Chance Saloon.
ONE SURVIVOR: The Saints and Magpies are about to share drinks at the Last Chance Saloon. File photo

Magpies on brink

THE forecast of rain is a blessing for farmers across Northern NSW but adds a whole new and unexpected dimension to the preliminary finals of the AFL North Coast competition.

With virtually no footy played in wet weather this season all teams will find themselves in unaccustomed conditions if the rain falls as predicted.

Players will have to adjust to a wet ball and slippery surface while coaches will be considering a change in game plan to try and reduce the impact of the rain.

Sawtell-Toormina Saints head into the senior preliminary final against Port Macquarie Magpies as favourites by virtue of their five wins over their southern rival this season.

However, any wet conditions are likely to make this a much more even contest.

Saints nearly stole last week's semi against Coffs Breakers at the death and will have a laser-like focus on ensuring they don't bow out of the finals with consecutive losses.

Their effort and intensity in that match was at the level required but the execution lacked polish and this will be the key area for improvement in the final.

The Magpies had last week off giving them the chance to rest sore bodies ahead of their end of season tilt.

While this can be valuable, the Magpies may well have preferred to keep momentum going considering that they had their best win of the season in the last round of home-and-away action.

In the women's match, Port Macquarie take on Coffs Harbour Breakers.

Port's team will be battered and bruised from last week's physical encounter and will be missing Kelli Waterhouse and Tilly Mobbs through injury.

Returning to the line-up will be key players Britt Hargreaves and Amy Foo to add experience and versatility.

Breakers have their own selection headache to work through.

Three ACL injuries in the past four matches, plus the loss of skipper Bella Crawley to illness, sees Katika Adams as the only tall player left standing.

In reserve grade, local rivals Coffs Breakers and Sawtell-Toormina Saints face off as two incredibly evenly matched teams.

These two were only separated on the ladder by percentage at the end of the season and each team will know they face a huge test to make it through to the season decider.

This is a replay of last season's grand final which Saints won

In the under-17 match, Port Macquarie will have to overcome the heartbreak of last week's one point loss if they are to dispatch Grafton Tigers.

The match was an emotional roller coaster and the Magpies will have to have dealt with both the physical and emotional bruises to be ready for this clash.

Tigers are expected to be at full strength for this must win match and will have the advantage of being well rested.

Their line-up features a number of players from last year's premiership and this big game experience will be invaluable.