Strange opponents throws intrigue into run toward finals
THIS weekend is the last round of Cross Conference matches for the season and that throws a whole other lot of unknowns into what is already fast becoming an intriguing conclusion to the home and away season.
Coffs Breakers and Port Macquarie Magpies are locked together on nine wins with reigning premier Sawtell/Toormina just the one win behind.
The first match in the double header at Richardson Park today sees Port Macquarie taking on the Northern Rivers ladder leaders, Byron Bay, in a battle of not only the two Magpies teams but the only two sides yet to taste a loss in the cros conference format.
Port is fresh off a key win last week against Sawtell/Toormina which has given it the upper hand in the race for a top two spot, but will be coming up against a Byron team that has only lost once in two seasons.
Byron are fancied to win but will have to contend with their longest road trip of the season and the inevitable impact this has on the availability of players.
This will be followed by the Saints on their home ground against Ballina.
The reigning North Coast premiers struggled for numbers last week and were soundly beaten by Port so will be looking for big performances from key players such as Mark Couzens, Lachie Christopher and Brendan Foote who are all set to return.
Ballina gave Port a real run for their money not that long ago and is expected to be closer to full strength than on that occasion due to the reduced travel.
This match is a toss of the coin and could come down to whichever team is more disciplined on the day.
At Oakes Oval in Lismore, Grafton take on their namesakes, the Tweed Coast Tigers.
Neither of these teams had recorded a win until three weeks ago but since that time Tweed Coast have won twice to go into this match with the form on the board.
Grafton showed some really promising signs earlier this month when Port struggled to beat them but have fallen away since then. This match is likely to be close but Tweed Coast should claim the four points.
The last match of the round is Coffs Breakers playing away against Lismore Swans.
Breakers are flying high, are at full strength, and should be too strong for a Lismore side that hasn't tasted success in the past couple of months.
This is an excellent opportunity for Breakers to further improve their percentage.
In the 12 Cross Conference matches played to date the ledger is split at six wins apiece between the two Leagues, further reinforcing what a positive concept this has been in its first year.
AFL NORTH COAST
At Richardson Park
11.30am: Port Macquarie v Byron Bay
2pm: Sawtell/Toormina v Ballina
At Oakes Oval
11.30am: Tweed Coast v Grafton
2pm: Lismore v Coffs Breakers