Can Swans end Saints’ run in grand final rematch?
THE Swans have had tomorrow's date circled on the calendar since the fixture was first released.
So too have the Saints.
The two benchmark sides in the AFL Mackay competition will meet again for the first time since last season's grand final - and it promises to be belter at Zeolla Park.
One team's unbeaten start to the 2020 season will come to an end tomorrow and, more than likely, premiership favouritism will be afforded to the victor.
Swans captain Lachlan Clarke cares little for favouritism status, but he does want to make amends for the grand final defeat.
And he thinks the Swans have the team to make it happen.
"I think it's always a pretty big rivalry between us and the Saints. It's one you look to on the fixture straight away," he said.
"They're the best team in the comp and that showed last year. (But) I think our team is more than up for the challenge."
The Swans will go in without reigning competition best and fairest Darcy Mealy once again. However with returning junior Matt Oakford and boom recruit Chris Endres running through the middle, as well as Clarke himself, the visitors will have plenty of ball winners in the engine room.
The Saints will also be without two key midfielders in skipper Steven Pugh and James Gallagher. But vice-captain Chayse Tilley said it was a great opportunity for the club to test its depth.
"I think the game will be won and lost in the midfield. It's a very important part of the ground," he said.
"Our midfield has had a lot of depth over the last couple of years and even with a couple out tomorrow, I feel others will step up and fill the void very well."
The Saints will go in with a vastly different team to the one which claimed the 2019 premiership. President Peter Wood said "about nine" players from that side would miss tomorrow's clash.
But with that comes a chance to blood some youngsters, and Tilley was excited to see what the next generation of Saints could do on a big stage.
"You only need to look around our senior team for the past few years to see how many U17 players have come through the ranks and are now playing senior footy at our club. It's a great feeling," he said.
As for the Swans, Tilley knows his side is in for its toughest test of the season so far.
Swans are a quality opposition and have been for a number of years. It's going to be a tough day on the track and we're looking forward to the challenge," he said.
"It is a more important game (than normal). We're on a winning streak and everyone knows that. Everyone is trying to knock us off the perch and we're looking forward to the challenge."
AFL Mackay Allied Pickfords Cup Round 4 -
(2.30pm) - North Mackay Saints v Eastern Swans at Zeolla Park
(3.00pm) - Mackay Magpies v Mackay City Hawks at Magpies Sporting Club
(3.40pm) - Bakers Creek Tigers v Whitsunday Sea Eagles at Etwell Park