The Western Magpies have made a raft of changes as the Pies face an 8 point match against the fourth placed Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast on Saturday. Only four competition points separate the sides and coach Nathan Clarke has had several forced and unforced changes to his side from last round.
Key forward Brent Staker returns to add firepower to the Pies forward line and exciting youngster and Queensland under 18 player Will Fletcher makes his debut from the bench. Brenton Saunders returns after a long lay off with an ankle sprain and Mitch Stallard returns from injury while Jadan Morton, Sam Copland and Brodie Easton all earn a recall.
Out are the injured Richard Wenham and Aaron Maricic, Nick Barling and Todd Billing go back to the Reserves, Matt Sondergeld is rested as Redlands have a bye and Sonny Aneet and Corey Hopkins are both unavailable.
The Pies will be keen to put their slow start and last quarter fadeout against Morningside to one side and prove they are a genuine finals side against an hot & cold Demons outfit, who have enjoyed huge wins over 2015 Grand Finalists Labrador and Morningside, but also been well beaten by Broadbeach and most recently Mt Gravatt. Given this, the Pies will need to be ready for anything the Surfers side has to throw at them, as they have been a high scoring outfit this year when they get going.
The Pies will have welcomed the break to re-charge the batteries and with Staker up forward and the return of smart small forward in Saunders the Pies goal scoring power has increased significantly.
Morton comes in to assist Dom Beer and it is in the middle the match will be won or lost. The Pies midfield was regularly dominant in their 2015 run to second place on the ladder but this has not been the case this year and coach Clarke has put a lot of work in getting his rotations right and the stoppage and clearance strategies in place. Converting midfield ascendancy to scoring shots and quality forward entries will also be high on the agenda.
The Pies defence was under the pump last round and will be keen to restrict the very dangerous and versatile Demons forwardline. Rhys Bridge has been excellent this year and Luke Scott and Tim Mcevoy bring plenty of experience across half back.
As the Pies near the half way mark of the season this is a big match with plenty at stake. The Pies need to win to remain close to the top sides and be in position to launch an assault at the top three in the second half of the season.
Western Magpies vs Surfers Paradise - Sir Bruce Small Oval, Gold Coast Sat 11 June @ 2pm
B: Luke Mitchell - Chris Hunt - Rhys Bridge
HB: Brady Allen - Luke Scott - Tim McEvoy
C: Matt Davis - Cal Carseldine (C) - Brodie Easton
HF: Mitch Stallard - Brent Staker - Lachlan Woods (C)
F: Brenton Saunders - Alex Dickfos - David Lewis
Foll: Dom Beer - Ben Jeanke-Cain - Gareth Crawford
INT: Jadan Morton - Drew Mitchell - Sam Copland - Will Fletcher