SUPER SIX: Talking points from Round 19 of AFL Mackay
FINALLY IT IS FINALS TIME
Round 19 followed a similar theme to the majority of Allied Pickfords Cup matches during the home and away season.
No surprises and three fairly comfortable results with wins to Bakers Creek, North Mackay and Mackay Magpies.
The Tigers travelled to Airlie Beach, recording a 16.15 (111) to 4.5 (29) win against the bottom-placed Sea Eagles.
Jordan Cullen booted six goals, with Reece Walsh and John Vagg named best for Bakers Creek.
North Mackay had no worries against Moranbah, strolling to a 23.19 (157) to 3.3 (21) win at Zeolla Park with Sam Dunbar booting 10 goals and a raft of players, headed by Steven Pugh, coming down with a case of leather poisoning.
The Magpies prevailed 18.18 (126) to 9.2 (56) against Mackay City at Harrup Park.
Connor Smith (four goals) and Braeden Ebert headlined a long list of quality contributors for the Pies, with Barry Badcock turning back the clock, kicking four majors for the Hawks.
With the often lopsided nature of the regular season, fingers are crossed that we'll have a ripping finals series.
SO HOW DID THE LADDER END UP AND HOW ABOUT THAT FIRST WEEK OF FINALS?
North Mackay Saints 16-0, 2094 points for, 322 points against, 650.31%, 76 points
Eastern Swans 14-2, 2206 points for, 727 points against, 303.44%, 68 points
Mackay Magpies 9-7, 1379 points for, 1273 points against, 108.33%, 48 points
Bakers Creek Tigers 8-8, 1008 points for, 1097 points against, 91.89%, 44 points
Mackay City Hawks 5-11, 883 points for, 1691 points against, 52.22%, 32 points
Moranbah Bulldogs 3-13, 923 points for, 1898 points against, 48.63%, 24 points
Whitsunday Sea Eagles 1-15, 732 points for, 2217 points against, 33.02%, 16 points.
North Mackay is the first team since the Eastern Swans in 2015 to complete an undefeated home and away campaign.
The Swans ended with a 16-0 record and a percentage of 654.20 (having scored 2414 points and conceded 369) before going onto win the flag following a five-point grand final thriller against Mackay City.
Congratulations to Saints coach Craig Jenkins and his players, although there won't be any celebrating unless North Mackay can end a decade-long flag drought on September 7.
Week one finals draw
Mackay Magpies v Bakers Creek Tigers (winner advances to the preliminary final, loser eliminated).
North Mackay Saints v Eastern Swans (winner advances to the grand final, loser plays in the preliminary final).
SAM IS TOP OF THE GOALKICKING CLASS
North Mackay ace Sam Dunbar sealed the Allied Pickfords Cup goalkicking award with a 10-goal bag in Saturday's 136-point demolition of Moranbah at Zeolla Park.
Dunbar lifted his season's tally to 70 to finish 16 clear of Swan Luke Ball.
The star forward has averaged five goals per game, with Saturday's haul his best of the season so far.
Dunbar has also enjoyed two bags of seven, two of six and four of five majors.
His lowest output in a game, one, against Mackay Magpies.
With the finals still to come, it is interesting that Dunbar has booted 21 goals more than last year's top goalkicker Matt Galonski (Whitsunday).
THREE TEAMS REACH END OF THE ROAD FOR 2019
So the season is over for Mackay City, Moranbah and Whitsunday.
Let's have a look back at the campaign for their respective sides.
Mackay City enjoyed better fortunes in 2019 than 12 months ago.
The Hawks shook off the wooden-spoon and finished with a 5-11 win-loss record.
Brad Best's side were playing catch-up after a 1-6 start, with losses to Whitsunday (eight points) and Mackay Magpies (five points) really scuppering finals hopes.
Ball magnet Des Hayes and the reliable Kurt Roderick were two of their leading lights, but the Hawks lacked a consistent major avenue to goal.
Moranbah enjoyed some highlights in its return to the senior ranks.
The Bulldogs finished with a 3-13 win-loss record, all of which came against wooden-spooners Whitsunday.
Moranbah unearthed some stars this season, most notably South Australian recruit Jake Tollenaar and young gun Lachlan King.
Tollenaar finished as the top goalkicker for the Dogs with 28 (15 of which came in a big win against the Sea Eagles).
King, who has been a leading light for Moranbah's Under-17 team, snagged 14 goals in seven appearances at senior level.
As for Whitsunday, 2019 will go down as an annus horribilis.
The back-to-back flags of 2017 and 2018 were banished to memory pretty quick during what was a lean campaign for the Sea Eagles, who had more departures than Melbourne Airport during the off-season.
The highlight for Whitsunday came in an eight-point win against Mackay City at Harrup Park in Round 7.
Victorian recruit Dylan Ryan was a shining light all season, booting 48 goals, while skipper Aaron Thompson represented North Queensland this year.
The Sea Eagles got games into a number of teenage talents, including Jayden Clark (nine games), Lachlan Draper (nine games), Cayden Yuskan (six games) and Cooper Goodwin (six games), who all boast bright futures.
SO WHO WILL WIN THE M.J MILLER MEDAL?
Trying to get in the head of the umpires is always a challenging task, but lets have a look at the major hopefuls of each club when it comes to AFL Mackay's most prized individual honour.
North Mackay players will poll well although they will take votes from one another.
Luke Slater, Liam Byrne, Sam Dunbar and Cal McLeod look to be their top four contenders, and if I had to plump for one, I'd lean to the Western Australian recruit Slater.
Eastern Swans are another side who will share the votes around, but their leading lights in my humble opinion are young guns Lachlan Clarke and Darcy Mealy.
Clarke is a classy footballer who has been a model of consistency and Mealy played a lot of quality games in a campaign headlined by 17 goals in 14 appearances.
Mackay Magpies could well provide a key hope in Braeden Ebert, who not only played every game this year, but often starred when his side won.
Bakers Creek's premier contender could well by Josh Moyle, although Jordan Cullen will poll well despite being limited to five matches.
Des Hayes, a three-time league medallist already, will clearly be the top hope for Mackay City.
The same can be said for Jake Tollenaar, who enjoyed a fine first season with Moranbah and Dylan Ryan, the standout for strugglers Whitsunday.
While winning a league medal in a struggling side is not impossible (I immediately recall Noradjuha champion Stephen Hobbs, a teammate of my dad, who won the 1991 Horsham District Football League best and fairest in a side that won one game), it is a difficult ask.
MY TOP THREE: 1. Braeden Ebert, 2. Des Hayes, 3. Luke Slater.
TIME TO STICK THE NECK OUT
This will be the final instalment of Super Six for 2019.
We'll leave the focus on the AFL Mackay Allied Pickfords Cup finals series to the crew from the Daily Mercury, sports editor Callum Dick and reporter Aidan Cureton.
So with this the swansong, I'll go with the omen and tip Eastern Swans to produce a boilover against North Mackay and win the 2019 flag.
Before I go, thanks to the many readers of this column, particularly those of you who purchased a subscription to read the weekly talking points from the AFL Mackay competition.
Despite the sometimes lopsided nature of the action this year, it is fantastic as someone who played in this league as a fresh-faced 20-year-old nearly two decades ago, to see footy vibrant in the Mackay/Whitsundays region.