Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - JOR­DAN GERRANS

THE five North Queens­land AFL leagues will have 12 months to find a hand­ful of big­ger- bod­ied mid­field­ers if they are go­ing to com­pete with South Queens­land in 2018.

For the sec­ond year straight, the South’s ex­pe­ri­enced on- ball bri­gade, led by for­mer Bris­bane Lion Daniel Dzufer, blitzed their north­ern ri­vals to claim the an­nual rep game.

NQ, made up of play­ers from Cairns, Capri­cor­nia, Mackay, Mount Isa and Townsville, im­proved as the game went on but the dam­age had al­ready been done in the open­ing two quar­ters as SQ held on to win 12.14 ( 86) to 8.8 ( 56).

Port Dou­glas de­fender Wes Glass won the Wayne Jack­son Medal for most out­stand­ing NQ player, while Townsville pair Leroy Lar­son ( Univer­sity Hawks) and Jar­ryd Gra­ham ( Her­mit Park Tigers) also played well in the cur­tain- raiser for the Suns/ Bull­dogs clash at Cazalys Sta­dium in Cairns.

The hosts were best served by Crath­ern Medal con­tender Mathew Med­craft while Cairns Saints pair Joel New­man and Fitzroy Green­wool showed flashes of bril­liance.

NQ coach Brad Cooper felt his mid­field strug­gled to com­pete against the op­po­nents’ strong on- ball unit.

“We started slowly and did not play ac­count­able foot­ball,” Cooper said. “We gave them a start and a qual­ity side like them did not waste it.

“We had to work re­ally hard for our goals where they seemed to get them eas­ily.”

South had an ob­vi­ous plan to not be beaten by Port Dou­glas skip­per Kye Chap­ple as they swarmed on the full for­ward ev­ery time he was near the ball.

Af­ter win­ning the first two en­coun­ters be­tween the re­gions, the North will need to con­vince a hand­ful of their bet­ter play­ers who avoided se­lec­tion this year to play in 2018 if they are to turn the ta­bles.

“I do not think we have got the full buy- in from play­ers,” Cooper said. “We get full buy- in for the play­ers that have turned up to­day.

“There are oth­ers who have de­cided not to play for what­ever rea­son.

“All we can do is put to­gether a pro­gram that be­comes at­trac­tive to play­ers and coaches of lo­cal clubs. For guys who have played NQ, the stan­dard they played will hold them in good stead lead­ing into the fi­nals.”

Of the four years the game has been played, the ledger is now even at two wins each.

NQ fell be­hind early on as SQ took a 15- point ad­van­tage into the first change with Ezekiel Frank and Green­wool boot­ing goals in the open­ing term. The hosts got on top for pe­ri­ods of the third term but bat­tled to turn it into score­board pres­sure with just Med­craft and Chap­ple goal­ing.

In the AFL Townsville com­pe­ti­tion Thuringowa Bull­dogs fur­ther so­lid­i­fied third place on the ta­ble with a 27.11 ( 173) to 3.2 ( 20) thump­ing of the win­less Curra Swans, with Daine Mac­don­ald ( seven goals), Rim Kris ( seven) and Lach­lan O’Dwyer ( six) kick­ing bags.

Lad­der lead­ers Univer­sity were far too strong for North­ern Beaches 12.13 ( 85) to 5.6 ( 36).

TOUGH GO­ING: NQ player Jar­ryd Gra­ham tries to clear the mid­field as South Queens­land play­ers de­fend at the Cairns AFL pre­mier­ship match cur­tain- raiser be­tween North Queens­land and South Queens­land at Cazalys Sta­dium. Pic­ture: JUSTIN BRIERTY

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