SUPER SIX: Talking points from Round 17 of AFL Mackay
TOP FOUR LOCKED IN
Bakers Creek will play finals football in the Allied Pickfords Cup for the first time since 2016.
The Tigers sealed the fourth and last available berth in the post-season courtesy of a memorable 36-point win against Mackay City at Etwell Park on Saturday.
Making this achievement even more impressive is the fact Bakers Creek did not field a senior side in 2018.
Coach Carl Teske has done a superb job with a Tigers outfit that does boast a number of teenagers in their first year at senior level.
My spies tell me the scenes at Tigerland after Saturday's win were jubilant on a day where the club celebrated their 1979, 1989 and 1999 flags.
Bakers Creek are a sleeping giant of the competition.
The Tigers joined the league in the second season and made an immediate impact, winning back-to-back flags in their first two years.
In all, Bakers Creek has won nine premierships, a number equal with North Mackay, and higher than Eastern Swans and Mackay City.
That 1999 title success was the last time the Tigers were crowned kings of AFL Mackay.
Even though it is a drought that on form looks unlikely to break this year, it is heartening to see Bakers Creek heading in the right direction and laying the foundation for a bright era.
The Tigers broke the contest apart on the back of a five-goal to one opening term and never seriously looked threatened against a Hawks side that needed to win to keep their finals hopes alive.
Mackay City's hopes of producing a Houdini-like act to reach the finals ended with that loss to Bakers Creek.
The Hawks did set themselves too hard a task after a sluggish start to the season.
As has been written in this column previously, the close loss to wooden-spooners Whitsunday, the lone win for the Sea Eagles this season, came back to bite Brad Best's side.
This is the second year in succession the Hawks have missed out on finals footy, but the rebuild after a golden era that gleaned four flags in six seasons, is ticking along OK.
Mackay City's biggest problem has been getting their best players on the ground enough.
SWANS DO THE JOB
Eastern Swans have been the second-best side all year.
They illustrated why again with a 17.14 (116) to 11.6 (72) defeat of an improved Mackay Magpies at Rogers Oval on Saturday.
Emerging star Lachlan Clarke again showed his true quality with a best-on-ground performance, capped by two goals.
The Swans had nine different goalkickers in total, headlined by Kane Evans with four
Evans is a smart player and been a welcome addition inside 50 for coach Graham 'Bomber' Adams.
Another who is hitting form at the right time of the year is Marek Sajewicz.
The South Australian recruit has snagged seven goals in his past two matches and definitely knows where the goals are.
In 2016, he booted 57 goals in 18 appearances for the Southern Saints (formerly Eudunda-Robertstown) in the North Eastern Football League.
Other leading lights for the Swans were Braden De Angelis and Steve Quarrell.
MAGPIES BETTER, BUT CAN THEY CLOSE THE GAP WHEN IT COUNTS MOST
Mackay Magpies turned in a much-improved performance despite going down to the Swans by 44 points on Saturday.
A fair change in personnel certainly helped, with the likes of North Queensland representative Connor Smith, the influential James Gruitt, Billy Kelso and Jayden Astridge returning to the side.
Kelso, who has been restricted to five appearances this season, was named best for the Magpies and looms as a potential ace for coach Gary Downes come finals time.
The key position player debuted for Hervey Bay Bombers as a 16-year-old and later played for the University of Queensland in the QFA Division 1 competition.
Matthew Bowerman, who snagged three goals for the Pies, also impressed, while Kelvin Prosser (two goals), Aaron Whinfield and Braeden Ebert made solid contributions.
The question for the Magpies going forward is can they turnaround a seven-goal difference in the space of a few weeks if they meet the Swans in September?
Time will be the judge of that.
But they need to get to a preliminary final (or grand final - yes there are no certainties in football) first to find out.
SAINTS IN SECOND GEAR, ALTHOUGH IT WAS MORE THAN ENOUGH
North Mackay continued their perfect record in 2019 with a 129-point dispatching of Whitsunday in Airlie Beach on Saturday.
The Saints never really got out of second gear, but still looked impressive on the way to the 27.12 (174) to 7.3 (45) success.
In fact, the Sea Eagles, who mustered 20 players, started the brighter and were good value to only trail the powerhouse by two points at the first change.
But any thoughts of a boilover were soon put to bed as North Mackay booted 10 goals to two in the second quarter.
In all, 11 different Saints got on the goalkicking list.
With leading goalkicker Sam Dunbar absent, Liam Byrne stepped up to boot six majors.
Cal McLeod was named as North Mackay's best after a busy game, highlighted by five goals, while M.J Miller Medal contender Luke Slater, Michael Green and Joel Campbell each bagged three goals.
North Mackay is looking to become the first team to go through the regular season unbeaten since the Eastern Swans in 2015.
That year, the Swans went 16-0 with a percentage of 654.20 then dispatched Mackay City in the second semi-final (79 points).
The grand final was a hell of a lot closer, with the Swans successful by just five points.
SOLID SIGNS FOR SEA EAGLES
Saturday's loss to North Mackay may have been the seventh by a triple-figure margin in 2019, but there was something to take from the match for Whitsunday.
The Sea Eagles have battled terribly with numbers this season, although gave a good account of themselves against the high-flying Saints.
The first quarter was as good of footy as Whitsunday has played all year and while North Mackay lifted to race away with the contest, the Sea Eagles never dropped their heads and played the game out to the final siren.
Skipper Aaron Thompson, who played for North Queensland earlier this season, was a standout and set an example for his teammates to follow.
Young guns Jayden Clark, Lachlan Draper and Cayden Yuskan also impressed.
Key forward Dylan Ryan added two goals to make it 48 for the season and will aim to break the half-century barrier against Bakers Creek in the final round.
ROUND 18, AUGUST 10
North Mackay Saints v Bakers Creek Tigers at Zeolla Park
Mackay Magpies v Moranbah Bulldogs at Magpies Sporting Club
Eastern Swans v Mackay City Hawks at Rogers Oval