Direct passage to the grand final will be the prize when minor premiers Easts Magpies meet arch-rivals and reigning champions Past Brothers in the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership Major Semi-Final at Salter Oval tomorrow at 5.20pm.
Earlier, at 3.40pm, Wests Panthers and Hervey Bay Seagulls will be playing for survival when they square off in the Minor Semi-final.
Easts won eight matches in a row before being brought back to earth by the Brethren in a 38-22 wake-up call in the penultimate round on July 17, before also losing to the Panthers 22-20 in the last round.
They have since been buoyed with their mercurial captain Matt Craven taking out the BRL A Grade Player of the Year award for the second season in a row, but apart from being on a two-match losing streak, Brothers will have the advantage over them in match fitness in their first game for three weeks.
Brothers have the advantage of having played a tough Qualifying Final last Saturday and putting it all together in a 30-16 victory against a Panthers side which admittedly was missing three of their biggest guns in livewire halfback and BRL Rookie of the Year Marcus Tanner and powerhouse forwards Dan Tanner and Lachlan Patterson.
Craven is a nephew and former protégé of Brothers’ master coach Andrew Hamilton, and both love plotting each other’s side’s downfall, while adding further to the inter-club rivalry, the Magpies’ first-year coach is Brent Kuskey, who played starring roles in a string of Brothers premierships as a player, including in the previous season, 2019.
His team also includes several other former Brothers stars.
Brothers have several forced changes to their team, with Klinton Beer, Jake Thompson, Taylar Barritt all ruled out, and club president Mat Templeman, Dan Finter and Benaiah Kambanei coming into the side.
The Tanner duo and Patterson will all return for the Panthers tomorrow, and they will be warm favourites to bounce back, even though the Seagulls plucked them in their first two meetings this season, before Wests were best in a 26-18 victory when they last crossed swords a month ago.
On paper, Wests look to have too many guns, but Hervey Bay also have a very good side, although they will need to improve after being on the brink of elimination last week against Waves Tigers when they trailed by 10 points with nine minutes to go, before scoring two late tries, the second with 39 seconds remaining to level the scores, then surging home 34-26 in extra-time.
The Panthers will also contest the Reserve Grade and Under-18 Major Semi-finals, both against Wallaroos, while the Seagulls are also represented in the Reserve Grade and U18 Minor Semi-finals, against the Magpies and Brethren respectively.
Corey Leggett bagged a double as Across The Waves (ATW) recovered from a half-time deficit to over-run United Park Eagles (UPE) 3-1 in the first match of Wide Bay Premier League Men’s round 19 on Wednesday night.
Brothers-Aston Villa (BAV) also ran out 2-0 winners over cellar dwellers Diggers in their split Round 22 showdown.
Round 19 concludes tomorrow, with at Martens Oval at 6pm, third placed Bingera to take on second seeds Fraser Flames, and Diggers up against Sunbury Blues.
Fifth placed BAV, who must keep on winning if they are to qualify for the finals, travel to Maryborough to suit up against No. 7 Doon Villa, while SC Corinthians head to Hervey Bay for their date with KSS Jets.
UPE will play their Round 22 game against Granville at 6pm, also at Martens Oval.
In the Wide Bay Women’s Premier League, there will be another Local Derby tonight at 8pm at Martens Oval between second placed UPE and Bingera, who must win to keep their hopes alive, while Waves have the bye.
Last Saturday in the junior divisions, Weston Giovannoni was unstoppable for ATW Hotspurs in Under-14, hammering home 11 goals in a 24-0 whitewash of Diggers.
Both teams will be seeking to build some momentum when title holders Across The Waves Eagles host 2020 beaten grand finalists Bay Power in a Wide Bay Marquis Macadamias Seniors Premiership penultimate round semi-final dress rehearsal at Frankl Coulthard Oval at 2.30pm tomorrow.
The Power flicked the switch in an 8.9 (57) to 5.5 (35) victory when they last met on 10th July, but honours have been split in clashes between the pair this season, and both are out for a confidence boosting win prior to their semi rematch in a fortnight’s time.
Stars of the future will be on show when Bundaberg hosts the Zone Under-15 Carnival at Hinkler Park this Sunday.
Sunshine Coast have unfortunately withdrawn from the tournament, with Bundaberg to battle it out with Fraser Coast and Gympie in the Boys’ division, but there are four girls’ teams, with Fraser Coast dually represented.
The first match is at 8.30am, with the last scheduled for 2.30pm.
Bundaberg Hockey Association fixtures will also resume this weekend after last week was cancelled due to Covid-19 regulations, with Waves Cities taking on Arrows/Athletics in all grades, including Division 1 Women at 3.10pm and Men at 4.30pm.
Raiders/Rovers are opposed to All Blacks, with Division 1 Women at 5.50pm and Men at 7.10pm.
Reigning champions and unbeaten leaders Waves Gold look set to go on their winning ways when they meet Alloway Blue in the penultimate round of the Bundaberg Warren Family Homes Division 1 Premiership at the Superpark tomorrow at 5pm.
At the same time, a spirited clash is expected in the showdown between second placed Brothers Hurricanes and Fusion Solomon, while at 6pm, Waves Blue bib up against Natives Magpies.
Two Bundaberg trainers were each successful at the Thangool meeting last Saturday with Gary Clem claiming the Maiden Plate with Bacio Vincente, a younger full brother to his champion King Klaus, and Mary Hassam getting the money with Daunting Princess in the Three-Year-Old Maiden.
Meanwhile, after claiming Bundaberg’s two biggest races, the Lindsay Australia Bundaberg Cup and Haifa Lightning 3 weeks ago with Wrecking Ball and Mountain Courage respectively, top local trainer Darryl Gardiner looks a great chance to snare Gladstone’s two premier events, the Cup and Newmarket, with the duo tomorrow.
Milora trainer Barry Kitchener claimed a double at this week’s Bundaberg meeting, with Prangster Crash finally breaking through in a photo finish at her 36th start in the Maiden, and Apache Swoop prevailing in the 5th Grade Final.
Just four District trainers shared in the spoils on the program, Nathan Sarnadsky with Farmor Bentley’s on track debut in a Maiden, Lorraine Isles with Unencumbered in a 5th Grade Heat, Lindsay McCarthy with Throw Strikes which snapped a 10-race losing streak in a 5th Grade, and Ron Hawkshaw with Dinah Shian, which ended a 17-race drought dating back almost one year, in the Masters 5th Grade.
Other sport stories: Stars emerge at schools athletics carnival