An early dose of finals football and the chase for a home semi-final will be driving the Tweed Heads Seagulls when they take on Easts Tigers at Piggabeen Sports complex on Sunday (2pm).
The Seagulls sit in sixth position, one competition point above the Tigers and two ahead of eighth-placed Redcliffe, meaning Tweed are practically assured of their first finals appearance since 2014.
Victory over Easts, before the final two rounds of the season against out-of-contention Souths Logan and Northern Pride, would put the Seagulls in the box seat to finish sixth on the ladder and host a first-week elimination final at Piggabeen on September 8.
Seagulls coach Ben Woolf said last weekend’s win over the desperate Ipswich Jets, who were fighting for finals survival, had given Tweed an early taste of sudden-death football that they can use to launch their run in the play-offs.
“We want to stay sixth and play a home semi-final, and to ensure that happens that we pretty much have to beat Easts,” Woolf says.
“So like last weekend against the Jets, the players know they have to rise to that occasion (they beat Ipswich 22-18 away) with the attitude that finals footy has come early.
“We beat Easts 16-4 in one of our best performances this season in Round 10, and we will have to play to that quality again.
“Our desperation in defence against Ipswich for 15-20 minutes when they had all the ball was tremendous and we have to build on that.”
A key man for Tweed Heads will be Gold Coast Titans marquee player Ash Taylor, who showed signs that his confidence is returning with a major hand in three of the Seagulls’ four tries against the Jets.
Taylor took control of much of his team’s attack with authority in the best of his three performances (two for Tweed, one for the Titans) back from his time away from the game.
Prop John Palavi, a former Warriors NRL player, has been outstanding with his up-front leadership and the Gulls’ pack, that has gained an edge with the switching of centres Kodi Parsons and Ioane Seiuli to the back row, will have to be at their best.
Easts will boast an international in their backline, with Tonga Test centre and former Warriors star Solomone Kata turning out for the Tigers after a mid-season switch to Easts’ parent club, the Melbourne Storm.
Kata will partner fellow Storm player Marion Seve (12 NRL games in 2019) in the centres, who will provide a big challenge for Seagulls’ pair of Treymain Spry and last week’s two-try hero Lee Turner.
The Women In League Round game kicks-off at 2pm, following the Hastings Deering Colts match at 12.30pm.
The Titans’ other feeder team, the third-placed Burleigh Bears, are at home to Northern Pride at Pizzey Park on Saturday, with kick-off at 4pm.