Round 21: Match previews and selected teams
The stage is set for the final minor round of the 2016 season with as teams battle it out for all-important ladder positions.
Sydney University and Aspley are in the race for second while Southport and Gold Coast are fighting for the last spot in the finals.
See all the Round 21 match previews and selected teams below.
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Southport will face defending premier NT Thunder to seal a place in the 2016 finals series when they clash at Fankhauser Reserve to kick off Round 21 action on Saturday.
The Sharks are coming off a shock 13-point loss to Gold Coast last week to put them in danger of slipping out of the top six.
With only percentage now separating them from the Suns on the ladder, the Sharks need to beat Thunder to control their own destiny, or risk missing out on finals if Gold Coast beats Aspley.
The Sharks have been bolstered by the return of Todd Grayson and Rob Clements from injury, but lose vice-captain Evan Panozza and forwards Zak Saad and Stuart Donnelly, who will play as top-ups for the Suns.
NT Thunder are coming off a spirited 38-point victory over minor premier Sydney at TIO Stadium last week, and will be keen to made amends for a disappointing loss to the Sharks at home earlier in the season.
Forwards Liam Patrick and Michael Hagan are unavailable, but midfielder Sam Talbot returns from illness alongside young defender Michael Bowden.
Third place is up for grabs for the GIANTS when they host Brisbane in an AFL curtain-raiser at Spotless Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The GIANTS are generating some ominous form on the eve of the finals series, winning their past three matches by an average of 95 points.
If they finish third, the GIANTS will play sixth in a home Elimination Final next week. If they remain fourth, they will play NT Thunder.
A host of AFL-listed players return to the side this week in Matt Kennedy, Adam Kennedy, Will Hoskin-Elliott and Harry Himmelberg.
Nathan Wilson and Jacob Hopper have been elevated to the AFL squad.
Brisbane will farewell ruckman/forward Trent West this weekend, who announced his retirement earlier in the week.
Liam Dawson, Jaden McGrath, Josh McGuinness, and Archie Smith are among the inclusions, while Josh Clayton comes out of the side to make his AFL debut.
Will history repeat itself for Sydney University in the final home-and-away-round?
This time last season the Students faced minor premier the GIANTS in Round 21, and came away with a confidence-boosting 33-point triumph on the eve of the finals.
There is plenty more at stake in 2016 with Sydney University playing for second place, which earns a week off next week before a home Preliminary Final.
Reigning NEAFL MVP winner Tom Young returns after missing last week’s 23-point win over Canberra, with forward Mitch Thompson and hard-nosed midfielder Jackson Potter also coming in.
Liam Bedford, Andrew Sierakowski and Erol Sertbas will miss.
Sydney are coming off a 38-point defeat to NT Thunder in Darwin where they were down to one player on the bench.
They have welcomed back some experience this week with Ted Richards, Jordan Foote, Lewis Melican and Toby Nankervis all coming back into the side.
Defender Colin O’Riordan and midfielder Ben McGlynn – who has been elevated to the AFL side - are big losses.
The two sides have met once this season, with the Swans coming out on top by 59 points at the SCG in Round 9.
A loss for the Students could see them slip to fourth on percentage.
It’s the last roll of the dice for the Gold Coast Suns as they attempt to make a miraculous jump into the finals when they come up against Aspley at Graham Rd on Saturday afternoon.
The Suns need to beat the Hornets - and hope Southport loses to NT Thunder - to steal sixth spot, in what would be a spectacular turnaround after Gold Coast had a 2-8 win-loss record at the halfway point of the season.
They will only have eight AFL-listed players, but as the Suns showed last week in a 13-point win over Southport, they can be more than competitive.
Josh Schoenfeld, Jesse Joyce and Mitch Hallahan all return to the reserves after being omitted for the senior team.
Their two best players from last week - Sean Lemmens and Brayden Fiorini - have been elevated to the AFL side, and Dan Currie (injury) is another key out.
2014 club best-and-fairest David Swallow is set to play a full game as he looks at returning to senior action in Round 23 against Port Adelaide.
Aspley, who are coming off a bye, have welcomed back defenders Matt Argus and Michael Hutchinson from injury, while co-captain Joey Daye is also back after being a late exclusion against Canberra a fortnight ago.
With Sydney University having superior percentage, the Hornets need to beat Gold Coast and hope the Students lose to the Swans if they are to finish second.
Redland and Canberra will meet in a rematch of their eight-point thriller in Round 14 in their last match of the season at Tidbold Park on Saturday afternoon.
Both sides will be keen to finish off a high note after opposite form in recent weeks. The Bombers have suffered two big losses by over 100 points – including their heaviest defeat in the NEAFL by 150 points to the GIANTS last week.
The Demons have pushed both Aspley and Sydney University to within 15 and 23 points respectively in the past fortnight, and have regained star midfielder Jordan Harper from a two-week suspension.
Forward Mitch Frail and young defender Lucas Meline have also been added to the squad, but playing-coach Ben Waite is a big loss.
Jonah Licht and Jake Warren are the only two changes to the Bombers side, with Harrison Hunkin and Oliver Ritchie coming out of the squad.
Both clashes between the two sides this season have gone down to the wire, with Redland 10-point winners in Round 1 before the Demons turned the tables on the Bombers home turf six weeks ago.
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