Preview: Preliminary Finals
By Sam Canavan
Saturday September 6
After withstanding a late comeback from Redland at Graham Road last weekend, the Hornets will need to overcome a UWS GIANTS side that finished top of the NEAFL standings, with both teams bidding to advance to their first NEAFL decider
With their senior side finishing its campaign with a stirring win, the GIANTS reserves will be intent on emulating that result, but Aspley has been arguably the most in-form outfit in the competition of late, and this game shapes as a real 50-50 affair.
Restricted to 15 listed players, the home side is set to field 14, including a host who played in last week's seniors' victory over the Bulldogs.
Youngster Cam McCarthy, who kicked a brilliant goal with his first kick in AFL last week, has been named, complementing No.1 draft pick Tom Boyd and former Bulldog Dylan Addison in a formidable forward line, but UWS will be weakened by the loss of gun midfielder Mark Whiley, classy defender Curtly Hampton, and former Swan Jed Lamb.
The Hornets have named an unchanged side from the outfit that beat the Bombers, with two players who featured in the 2013 Northern Conference Grand Final side - Declan Bevan and Jason Satchell - unable to be squeezed in, such is the strength of Aspley's line up.
The men in brown and gold will look to their midfield contingent of Matthew Payne, Ryan Matthews, and Austin Lucy, all brilliant last week, to provide silver service to the likes of Eddie Sansbury, Adam Hughes, and Jack Stanley, and if the visitors can win that battle through the centre, it might well win them through to a landmark Grand Final.
Sunday September 7
As long as the Swans' senior side stays alive in the AFL Finals series, their NEAFL outfit will be hungry to return some eye-catching football, with a host of players possibilities to be elevated should injury strike any of John Lomgmire's charges.
For that reason, the Swans deserve to enter this match as slight favourites, but the Thunder have improved their form outside of their Darwin stronghold recently, and with ex-AFL talent like Nathan Djerkurra and Liam Patrick brilliant in the win over Ainslie last week, a boilover is possible.
While an upset isn't out of the question, it's hard to see the Thunder, as talented as they are, getting past one of the best sides the Swans have fielded all year.
There are no restrictions on the number of listed players AFL reserves sides can name against NT, and the Swans are set to field 18, including a group unlucky to be omitted from the senior side after solid games last week: Dean Towers, Sam Naismith, Shane Biggs, Tom Mitchell, and Zak Jones.
Veteran Ryan O'Keefe will start on the ball, alongside arguably the Swans' best midfielder this year, Dan Robinson, Toby Nankervis returns at full-forward, while curiously Tom Walsh is listed to start at centre-half-back.
As good as the Swans look on paper, if the full contingent of Thunder stars produces their best football, this will be a cracking contest.
Classy half-forward Chris Dunne makes his long-awaited return from a foot injury, in a massive boon for the visitors, with Hezekiah Lawrence, and Seb Guilhaus the other inclusions.
After being stretchered off with concussion late last week, Julian Lockwood has passed a fitness test and will play his 50th game, while Neil Vea Vea and Aaron Motlop could be 'X factors' off the bench.