SUPER SIX: All the talking points from Round 7 in AFL Mackay
A week is a long time in football.
Just ask the Whitsunday Sea Eagles, who after being dusted by 92 points on home soil by fellow winless side Moranbah last round, turned around their fortunes seven days later.
At Harrup Park, the scene of their second consecutive flag triumph in 2018, Whitsunday scored a remarkable eight-point win against Mackay City Hawks.
A great deal has changed in the 253 days since that premiership triumph when it comes to the playing group, but the one thing that has not is their resilience and character.
To respond the way they did after last week's poor loss speaks volumes about the Sea Eagles as a club and congratulations to coach Ian 'Hodgy' Hodges, who has had the toughest job in AFL Mackay this season.
Whitsunday led at every change, skipping out to a 14-point lead at quarter-time, maintaining a nine-point advantage at the main break, leading by five at the last break before prevailing 16.9 (105) to 14.13 (97).
Young gun Jayden Clark and Victorian recruit Dylan Ryan nailed four goals apiece as eight different Sea Eagles featured on the goalkickers list.
Whitsunday did welcome nine players who didn't play against Moranbah including North Queensland selection Aaron Thompson, Cayden Yuskan and Ethan Olsen.
My spies told me it was a cracking game of attacking football, with both sides making their mark in attack.
There was no doubt the game was the best of Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round, named in honour of the former Fitzroy footballer who later in his life became the Governor of South Australia.
It proved a tough defeat for the Hawks, despite the best efforts of Ben Anderson, who booted five goals and the reliable Simon Spann, named as the Hawks' best player.
SAINTS CELEBRATE BIG DAY IN STYLE
North Mackay celebrated 50 years as a club at their home ground of Zeolla Park on Saturday.
The Saints welcomed a raft of past players back for the occasion and the current group of players did the right thing for the past champions with a resounding 116-point defeat of Bakers Creek.
North Mackay set the term with a dominant first-half display, restricting the Tigers to two behinds and really should have been more than 48 points clear at the main break after kicking 6.14.
But the Saints were much more accurate in the second-half, kicking 11.10 to 1.2 to seal the 17.24 (126) to 1.4 (10) success.
Sam Dunbar again headlined the goalkicking with four majors, while Cameron Hill, fresh from his selection in the NQ squad, snagged three majors.
Joel Campbell, Matt Landt and the dependable duo of Liam Byrne and Cameron McBride played starring roles in the victory that keeps the Saints top of the pops with a percentage of 823.00.
The squads for the North Queensland v South Queensland clash were announced during the week.
The annual intrastate clash has quickly developed to become a major part of the state's representative football scene.
This year's clash will be held in Townsville directly after the Gold Coast Suns and St Kilda clash at Riverway Stadium on June 15.
Seven players from AFL Mackay have been selected in the 55-man North Queensland squad.
They are Dylan McCutcheon (Eastern Swans), North Mackay duo Cameron Hill and Steven Pugh, Whitsunday ace Aaron Thompson and the Mackay Magpies triumvirate of Jarrod Watling, Nathan Peters and Connor Smith.
Also featuring in the squad are former AFL trio Aaron Davey, Eddie Sansbury and Brett Meredith, who all play in the AFL Cairns competition.
The North Queensland squad features players from the Cairns, Townsville, Mackay and Capricornia competitions, while South Queensland has been selected from players competing in QFA Divisions 1-5, QFA Northern Rivers, AFL Darling Downs and AFL Wide Bay competitions.
AFL Queensland senior football operations state manager Barry Gibson said the announcement of preliminary squads was a great way to recognise those players who are performing well, whilst also highlighting the depth of talent across the state outside the NEAFL and QAFL competitions.
"This representative program is incredibly popular with the players across the state, so for them to be recognised for their performances to date and know they are under consideration for selection is a real positive for not only them, but for their clubs and the competitions they play in,” Gibson said.
"The names of those in the squads clearly provides a great insight into the quality of players we have playing across our various competitions throughout Queensland.”
Returning for his third term in charge, North Queensland coach Brad Cooper said the selection process is always challenging due to the tyranny of distance between leagues, but he is relatively confident they have assembled a quality squad.
"It's always challenging from an ID perspective when we are selecting players between Gladstone and Cairns, but the selectors in each region have a great feel for their players, so I'm pretty comfortable that we have a squad that will allow us to select a team that can give us every chance of squaring the ledger with SQ,” Cooper said.
HAVE THE WHEELS FALLEN OFF THE TIGERS?
What is happening at Bakers Creek?
The Tigers marked their return to the senior ranks with three impressive wins against Mackay City, Whitsunday and Moranbah, but have been badly exposed, especially by Eastern Swans and North Mackay in the past fortnight.
Bakers Creek has only been able to muster just three goals against the competition pacesetters, while conceding 41.39 (273).
For a side likely to play finals football this season, that is a disappointing return.
The Tigers have dropped from top to fourth and now face quite an interesting run of games.
Next is a home clash with a now resurgent Whitsunday Sea Eagles this Saturday before a trip to Moranbah on June 8.
That is followed by the bye and a showdown with Eastern Swans at Etwell Park on June 22.
It is a period that may make or break the season at Tigerland.
At the same time Bakers Creek has come back to the pack, the Mackay Magpies are emerging as the third force in this year's Allied Pickfords Cup.
The Magpies were in a dominant mood on Saturday, smashing Moranbah by 161 points at Magpies Sporting Club.
This is the same Bulldogs outfit, who went into the contest with confidence after a 92-point away win against Whitsunday the previous week.
It proved a dog day afternoon for Moranbah, who could not manage another goal after Blair Hill snagged his second of the day at the 24 minute mark of the first quarter.
At that stage, the scoreboard read 5.6 to 2.2 to the home side and from that point it was all one-way traffic in a result that lifted Magpies percentage by nearly 40.
James Gruitt was in the thick of everything for the winners and proved a popular choice as best-on-ground.
Gruitt boasts a fine pedigree, having won the Whyalla News medal in 2013 while playing for Weeroona Bay, where he also won five club best and fairests (2009, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2015).
Matt Bowerman had a day out, snagging five majors, while Jessee-James Benson, Billy Kelso, Josh Lawler and Aaron Whinfield also featured in the best.
Rory Underwood slotted four goals and Jack Fortescue bobbed up with second consecutive bag of three goals.
SPOON BATTLE NOW FEATURES THREE
Last week I mused that Whitsunday looked destined to seal the dreaded wooden-spoon.
But with the Sea Eagles beating Mackay City on Saturday, the race for the uncoveted kitchen utensil has again become a three-horse race.
Whitsunday, Mackay City and Moranbah all have one win to their names, with percentage the difference between the fifth-placed Sea Eagles (40.18), Hawks (36.26) and Bulldogs (32.45).
In pure point terms, the differential between the Sea Eagles and Moranbah is 55 points (or 9.1 if you prefer).
Unlike larger leagues down south, the seven-team competition in AFL Mackay ensures that even though you are in a battle for the spoon, the lure of finals football remains strong because with Bakers Creek's season stalling somewhat, that fourth spot remains far from a lay down misere.
Saturday, June 1
Eastern Swans v Moranbah Bulldogs at Rogers Oval
Bakers Creek Tigers v Whitsunday Sea Eagles at Etwell Park
Mackay City Hawks v North Mackay Saints at Harrup Park
Mackay Magpies bye