The Western Magpies take on UQ at the nest on Saturday, in a crucial match for the 2016 season. Sitting 7th and 3-3 after 6 rounds, the Pies are in a congested ladder, where just 2 wins separates 3rd from 8th and the 4 points on offer are a huge carrot for the improving Magpie outfit.
New Senior Coach Nathan Clarke is not looking to make too many changes to the Magpies game plan and wants his charges to have a strong defensive focus and make it tough for the opposition to score. Clarke has a pretty clear philosophy, that the Magpies need to be strong on contested ball and make the opposition earn every kick - both strengths of this side over the past 18 months.
The Magpies expect a tough encounter against the Red Lions, who have had no trouble kicking a score this year and have been in most games well into the 2nd half, with only some inaccurate kicking for goal costing them against Morningside in a narrow 8 point loss. As a result, only a strong 4 quarter effort from the Pies will ensure the 4 points are secured.
Returning to the side is important swing man Luke Scott, after being a late withdrawal last week due to illness, while Brodie Easton has been rewarded for solid and consistent reserves form with a return to the senior side for the first time in 2016. Out go Sam Copland to the Lions NEAFL side, and Jake Goodall to Redlands.
The Magpies have named a mobile running side, well equipped to deal with a Red Lions outfit known to have plenty of zip. With Round 6 Rising Star nominee, Rhys Bridge named at Full-Back and the mobile Luke Scott at Centre Half Back while Mitch Stallard and Doc Davis fill the flanks, creating a very skilful half-back line capable of launching plenty of attack.
Brent Staker in his 2nd game for the Pies should be better for the run and will take his place in a dangerous looking half forward line, with Val Pope on one flank and Co-Captain Lachlan Woods on the other. With each player offering a very different, but effective skill-set - this half forward line should pose plenty of problems for the UQ defenders.
Matt Sondergeld has been in excellent form in recent weeks, and will be looking to work off tall targets Staker and Alex Dickfos when the ball hits the deck.
The Magpies have a very strong on-ball division, particularly with Co-Captain Cal Carseldine in his Grogan Medal winning form, and Gareth Crawford showing in recent weeks why he was such a highly prized recruit with his superb work at stoppages.
The Magpies will need to ensure UQ can't get the ball on the outside and use their pace, as they have proven they can be a high scoring side when they get going and the Magpies won't be looking for a Saturday afternoon 'shootout'. Strong defence first footy over 4 quarters and playing to the Magpies strength is what will get the job done for the Magpies in this must win encounter.
Western Magpies vs UQ Red Lions - Saturday 21 May, 2pm @ the Nest
B: Tim McEvoy - Rhys Bridge - Luke Mitchell
HB: Mitch Stallard - Luke Scott - Matt Davis
C: Aaron Maricic (R) - Cal Carseldine (C) - Richard Wenham
HF: Val Pope - Brent Staker - Lachlan Woods (C)
F: Matt Sondergeld (R) - Alex Dickfos - Brodie Easton
Foll: Dom Beer - Ben Jeanke-Cain - Gareth Crawford
INT: Nick Barling - Brady Allen - David Lewis - Todd Billing