The Western Magpies are ready to take on Labrador in the QAFL Second Semi Final at Labrador on Saturday. In a huge match, the Pies can make history if they win and go straight into their first QAFL Grand Final as a standalone club.
The Pies are ready for the big match and the Tigers now hold no fears for the Pies, which may not have been the case in 2015.
The sides share a win apiece this season with both wins by less than a goal combined. In the last clash in the wet the Pies gave Labrador an 8 goal start and then almost reeled them in after a frantic last quarter, so the Pies know they are more than a match for the minor premiers.
In their earlier clash the Magpies won after a late goal, so no matter what the situation, the Pies players know they if they apply pressure then Labrador are vulnerable.
That will be the theme coach Nathan Clarke has drummed into his players this year and no doubt emphasised it this week--pressure football at the contest, do the "one percenters" and work together and the rest will look after itself.
The selectors have made two changes to the side with Co-CaptainLachlan Woods not overcoming a lower abdominal strain and Charlie Pershouse returning after missing last week with illness and Will Fletcher omitted. With Labrador having several tall forwards, the tall Pershouse was a better option for this game.
The selectors brought in Luke Mitchell for Woods and despite missing the past 4 matches with unavailability he is fit and well, and should be able to resume where he left off. Mitchell was one of the form Magpies before he became unavailable and he will be fresh for the contest. Ruckmen Nick Barling and Dom Beer were again overlooked for a more versatile option in Jadan Morton with Alex Dickfos to pinch hit in ruck as well as play as a key forward. Woods hardness at the contest will be missed as he has been playing his best football for some time in the latter half of the season.
The mobility and athleticism of Jadan Morton means he can play as 1st ruck and be also a ball-winner around ground which has allowed the selectors more flexibility. Chris Hunt was close but it was decided to give him one more week.
The Pies selectors have versatility on their side with Val Pope and Luke Scott swinging between deep forward and in the midfield rotations, with Scott also having the ability to play down back with aplomb.
Theforward line rarely lines up these days in the traditional format with Brent Staker and Sam Copland rolling around deep then pushing up the ground and Alex Dickfos dropping into the key forward role when necessary. Brenton Saunders provides forward pressure and Drew Mitchell also adds firepower as he spends more time up forward than on the ball.
The midfield lifted last week when the match was on the line and none better than Cal Carseldine who was at his inspirational best in the tense final quarter, winning tough contested ball and putting his body on the line time and again. He has a few partners in crime who followed willingly last week and will do so again in Ben Jaenke-Cain, Brady Allen and Gareth Crawford.
Crawford in particular showed signs of a return to his dominant mid-season form last week and will be setting the bar high again this week, with his vast experience invaluable for the Pies, particularly in big games.
The half back line of David Lewis, Sean Mewing and Tyler Jones is a dashing one but they can also lock down opponents. Lewis and Jones in particular have been exceptional in the past month with intercept marks, pack packs and dash out of the backline. However each will have a Labrador forward to contain so and will have done their homework on each assigned player
Pershouse has been a revelation at fullback since his promotion 6 weeks ago and will again have a big job on one of the Tigers key forwards.
This is the biggest match to date in the Magpies' standalone QAFL history and the Pies know they can match it with Labrador and Labrador know that the Magpies are their biggest threat in this year's premiership race. The Pies must win the contested football and stop any outside run from Labrador to give their defenders time to match up. Expect a tough contest and as the Pies excel in the tight, hard, close-in contested football they will give themselves every chance of victory.
If the Pies bring their A game then they have every reason to be confident of overcoming Labrador on their home ground and advancing to the QAFL Grand Final.
Western Magpies vs Labrador - Cooke-Murphy Oval, Labrador - Saturday September 3 @ 2pm
B: Tim McEvoy - Charlie Pershouse - Richard Wenham
HB: Sean Mewing - David Lewis - Tyler Jones
C: Matt Davis - Cal Carseldine (C) - Luke Scott
HF: Drew Mitchell - Brent Staker - Sam Copland
F: Brenton Saunders - Val Pope - Alex Dickfos
Foll: Jadan Morton - Ben Jaenke-Cain - Matt Sondergeld
INT: Luke Mitchell - Gareth Crawford - Brodie Easton - Brady Allen
EMG: Will Fletcher - Nick Barling - Liam Dwyer