With the resident sports journalist Liam Warren having a spell this week, all-round sporting expert Michael ‘Speedy’ Stratton takes the reins and gives us his tips for round 12 of the Group 20 2017 season …
Black and Whites v Waratah Tigers
The Black and Whites are the obvious form team of the competition, and have bounced back nicely after losing their first two games of the season.
The top-of-the-table side brushed Leeton aside last week at a canter, showing just how far the sides still fighting for finals berths have to improve if they’re to get a taste at premiership glory this season.
“That surprised me, but by geez they’ve impressed me since then,” Speedy said.
“And the Waratahs, on their best day, they’ll push the Black and Whites all the way.
“This is the local derby, so irrespective of where they are on the ladder, it’s been a game of football and a half.”
Stratton believes Stephen and George Broome have been the keys to the Black and Whites’ success so far in 2017, and expects the pair to once again lead the way this weekend.
He’s also excited about the prospect of seeing Gospel Toru go about his business again, and believes new signing Tongia Fox will only get better after a stellar first season with the premiership favourites.
Young gun Kelvin Simpson will shoulder a lot of responsibility for the flag favourites in a pivotal role at fullback.
“I think he’ll play a huge role in the game, and he reads the play pretty well from all reports,” Speedy said.
The ‘Tahs will be bullish about their chances in the local derby, especially on the back of some good form from on-field leaders like Luke Farmer.
“He’s been playing half back and he’s a terrific kicker and terrific organiser,” Speedy said.
Farmer’s influence mixed with the momentum built on the back of a 42-16 win over the Hawks last week could be enough to give the Black and Whites a real shake.
He needs support from some of his side’s play makers, including lock Ben Vitucci, utility and Mr Fix It Kose Lelei and powerhouse Maile Ngu.
Despite the rivalry, Stratton suggests there may not be a genuine deep hatred between the clubs.
But that doesn’t mean they like each other.
“I wouldn’t say they’ll go out to town and share a bottle of wine together,” Speedy said.
“Hopefully its a lovely day, and I’m sure there’ll be a huge crowd there.
“I’m going to throw something different out there though – I reckon it’ll be a draw.
“Mainly because I have friends at both clubs.”
Yanco Wamoon Hawks v TLU Sharks: Yanco continues to struggle with injuries, made worse with some key personnel going down during the side’s disappointing loss to the Waratahs last weekend.
The Hawks can take on anyone at their best and with their best side on the paddock, but the Lakes boys should continue their strong form without too much trouble.
Leeton Greens v Hay Magpies: Hay doesn’t have the ammunition in first grade this season, but the Magpies have bigger fish to fry next season with some much needed imports due to arrive in 2018.
The Greens are also struggling at the moment, but will back themselves to get back in the winners circle at home against the winless ‘Pies.
West Wyalong v Yenda: Both sides have been disappointing at times during 2017, and any slim finals hopes are on the line when the sides meet at Ron Crowe Oval on Sunday.
Expect to see the Mallee Men perform well in front of a healthy crowd and post a much-needed win against the struggling Blueheelers.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.