Tapout Energy Stadium, Coorparoo
Sunday 20th, kick off 2pm
After nearly a month on the road the Easts Tigers finally return home to Tapout Energy Stadium on Sunday, however this will be no easy homecoming as they face a battered and bruised Redcliffe Dolphins side.
For the last two months the Sunshine Coast Falcons have been steadily building towards their historic first win and last Sunday they delivered it, beating the Dolphins 26-24. If the result did the Dolphins no favours, extending their winless run to five games and leaving their finals hopes hanging by a thread, then it did the Tigers even fewer favours, leaving them facing an angry and desperate Dolphins side that are now playing for their season.
The Dolphins are a better team than their eleventh place suggests, they boast a very solid forward pack that includes captain and former Cronulla Shark Jon Green, secondrowers Jake Marketo and Con Mika, who have both also played NRL and the dangerous Hayden Hansen at hooker. Their backline is full of weapons. The centre pairing of captain Marty Hatfield and Queensland Residents centre Aaron Whitchurch is one of the best combinations in the competition; both men are big and fast and cannot be given any latitude on the edge of the ruck. Winger Liam Georgetown is the second highest scorer in Queensland rugby league history and, as well as being a very good winger, is a deadly goal kicker, the Tigers will not want to give away any penalties in their own half. The Dolphins halves, Zach Strasser and Adrian Davis are brilliant.
Davis is a prodigiously talented halfback and in his first season in the Intrust Super Cup is proving to be a real star. Stuck behind a glut of talented halves at Newcastle he came north in search of more game time and has made every post a winner since arriving on the Peninsula. Following last week’s loss coach Troy Lindsay has moved him to fullback, which could prove to be a crucial decision. Davis is at his most dangerous when he runs at the defence with ball in hand. He has scored a number of tries this season doing exactly that, including a lovely try last weekend. He is also very adept at going to the line before putting team mates into gaps. He scored a sensational solo try last weekend with a chip and chase which he regathered to score untouched. Coach Lindsay will doubtless be hoping he can take advantage of the extra time and space available from fullback. The Tigers kickers will be trying to get the ball to ground rather than into his hands as much as they can. Their chasers will need to be energetic and accurate all day. Davis must be shut down quickly.
The other benefit the Dolphins get from having Davis at the back is that it allows them to shift Cameron Cullen to halfback and so have Davis, Cullen, Zach Strasser and Hayden Hansen all on the paddock at once.
The Tigers lineup may be is missing a number of key players however the biggest news, literally, is the addition of Storm giant Mitch Garbutt. Garbutt was a Tigers regular last season but has had limited opportunities this season, it will be great to see him back at Tapout Energy Stadium. The Tigers have not been playing their best football over the last month however have still managed to get the results and that is very pleasing. This weekend though they will need to play good football as well as displaying the guts and courage that has typified their last month, if they are to win.
I expect them to win what should be a tough encounter, get down to Tapout Energy Stadium on Sunday to cheers the lads to wins in all three grades.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com