GNFL Round 8 preview: Rovers target running game in blockbuster clash against Brigades

Jake Santa MariaGeraldton Guardian
Clay Azvedo battles with Kim Schofield in round one.
Camera IconClay Azvedo battles with Kim Schofield in round one. Credit: Jake Santa Maria

A revamped Rovers are prepared to complete their turnaround ahead of taking on the high-flying Hawks in their second grand final rematch on Saturday.

When last year’s grand finalists met in round one the new-look Rovers, having made several changes in the off-season, were outclassed, with the Hawks producing a 35-point victory.

Another loss to Railways followed, but since then the Demons have won their next four games, including taking down the ladder-leading Rams, the only team to do so this season.

Former JJ Clune winner Tom Denton has been in great touch, while Chris Scott and Joshua Simpson have led the way through the middle and Farren Parfitt leading a slightly undersized forward line.

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Dees coach Ian Comben said he has been impressed with the improvement so far but some forced changes would be a test for his side this weekend.

“I think over the period, we’ve got better week by week, but I think this weekend will be interesting for us,” he said.

“We’ve got a few players who’ve got the travel bug and will be missing but that happens every week with work or other commitments, so we’ll see who have have come selection later in the week.”

While the Rovers have improved since the opening round, so have the Hawks who have also won their last four.

Outside of a tight two-point loss to the Rams, where inaccuracy cost them, Brigades have struck down sides with impunity, passing the 100-point mark on the last four occasions with a peak of 204 against Mullewa.

They have perhaps the two best small forwards in Jamie and Kirsterfer Ryder while the Schofield brothers have both been damaging at times this season.

Comben said the key for the Rovers would be to clamp down on the Hawks’ running game.

“Just putting pressure on the ball carriers will be the main thing and make sure that we don’t let them off the hook to run free around the ground,” he said.

“We’ll be working on our man-on-man game this week and focus on our match-ups.”

Comben already has a couple of ideas on how to curb the Ryder brothers’ influence.

“Jamie Geier will probably take one of the Ryder brothers, he’s only a slightly built-like bloke but he plays like a tall and but also very quick to match it with the small forwards,” he said.

“It’s also part of the reason we’ve shifted Glen Prosser and Kobe Simpson to play off half-back and give us a bit more height and physical strength.”

At the other end, Stuart Egan made a move up forward last week slotting three goals, with Comben praising his versatility around the ground.

“It hinges a bit on who we have available if we’ve got Blake Tazewell and Dylan Curley I let Stuey go up forward which gives us another tall option,” he said.

“Or I could put one of them up forward and let Egan do the ruck but he has also been pretty handy across centre half-back.”

The Hawks will have home advantage on their side with the league game scheduled for 2.30pm at GBSC Sports Park.

Elsewhere, Chapman Valley will take on Railways in the Big Freeze clash, with a big crowd expected with ex-Hawk Chance Bateman to pull on the boots for the Royals.

It will be a key clash for both sides after some disappointing results in the last few weeks.

Mullewa will host Towns in a bottom-of-the-table clash, which likely represents the Bulldogs last chance to make sure they don’t finish with a winless season.

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