AND then there were two. Two teams left to contest the Lion Red Fox Memorial on Sunday at Mt Smart Stadium No 2. The Mt Albert lions, fresh from their weekend off, and the Papakura Sea Eagles, hot off their win over the Northcote Tigers last weekend.
WE are nearly there. We have one Grand Finalist resting this weekend, and we have the last two teams that will fight it out for that coveted second GF spot in the penultimate game in the Lion Red Fox Memorial
THREE weeks out from the Grand Final of the Lion Red Fox Memorial and a fascinating afternoon of football tomorrow is promised.
SO here we are, well and truly at the business end of the Auckland Rugby League Lion Red Fox Memorial competition. The final five has sorted itself out and a closer finish has rarely been seen in the long history of this competition.
YOU know, there are times when we have to stop and think just why our great game is, indeed, the greatest game of all. Right now, in the ARL Lion Red Fox Memorial, you don't have to give it a second thought. With one round left, two teams are assured spots in the semis, an unbelievable five other teams are playing for the remaining three spots on the ladder.Congratulations to the Mt Albert Lions on both taking out the Rukutai Shield, as Minor Premiers, and being season holders of the Roope Rooster Trophy. One leg left for these guys to take out the treble, and gee whiz, they would have to be favourites to take the Fox home.Congratulations also to the Papakura Sea Eagles, who cemented their second place finish last week end.Well, that is one and two sorted out, just a matter of the last three spots now and we can start the play-offs. Mangere East Hawkes are in third place on thirteen points. Tomorrow at Birkenhead War Memorial, they play the Northcote Tigers who are in fourth place on twelve points. The Tigers haven?t won a game in the last three weeks and were beaten by the Hawkes, 34/12, in their last encounter. The Tigers could do it, but I'm really doubtful. It would take an amazing turn around in form. The winner of this will be assured a spot. The loser will be relying on other results going their way.Marist Saints are in fifth spot by virtue of for and against and seem to be peaking at the right time, recording wins against the Hawkes and the Tigers in the last two weeks. It's fair to say that they have the easier run tomorrow, against East Coast Bays at Freyberg Park. Providing they can turn their twelve points into thirteen tomorrow, they are a royal chance of being semicontenders.Otahuhu Leopards, it must be said, have a real tough one at their home ground of Henham Park. The Lions will not be resting on their laurels and will be out to finish their campaign on a high. The Leopards are sitting on eleven points and it's going to take some miracle of large proportions for them to be turning out next week. Still - stranger things have happened, but I can?t see Mt Albert doing them any favours.Te Atatu Roosters have the next biggest ask, as they take on the Papakura Sea Eagles at Jack Colvin Park. The Roosters have not really looked the goods at all this year and, if I'm being honest, I think tomorrow will be their swan song. Their only hope is that the Sea Eagles take their foot off the pedal a little, but good sides don't do that.So - there we have it. We are poised for a magic day of footy, at the end of which, we will know those teams who will battle it out for the oldest, proudest and most prestigious trophy in this country.As usual, all games will commence at 2.30pm
THROW a blanket over them, from one to seven in the Lion Red Fox Memorial. Unbelievably, with two games left until the semi-finals, seven teams in an eight team competition are in contention for the play-offs.Whilst I did hint at some upsets last week, I did not really believe that Marist would have beaten the Mangere East Hawkes, particularly by 34 points to 16, or indeed that the Otahuhu Leopards would roll the Te Atatu Roosters, pushing them out of the five (on for and against).Two games out and the Lions are in front by four points. They cannot yet be proclaimed winners of the Rukutai Shield as, technically, the Papakura Sea Eagles could still overhaul them but, it has to said, that is a fairly remote possibility. By 4.00pmish tomorrow, I would imagine the Lions would be declared both Minor Premiers and 2006 Roope Rooster winners, as their game against East Coast Bays is the last Roope challenge of the season.Papakura, on sixteen points, are the only other team completely assured of a spot in the semis. Two points separate Northcote, Otahuhu, Mangere, Te Atatu and Marist. Let the battle begin.Walter Massey Park at Mangere plays host to the game between the Hawkes and the Roosters. Mangere will be severely smarting after their beating last week. Lets cut to the chase here, I?m tipping a big win to the Hawkes on their home ground with their partisan crowd behind them.Papakura Sea Eagles play the Otahuhu Leopards out at Prince Edward Park. The Sea Eagles still have a technical crack at the Minor Premiership and they will be going hard out with that in mind. There will be no upset this week for the Leopards. The Sea Eagles will win this one and win big.Marist versus Northcote at Halberg Park. This one is much more difficult to pick. The Tigers look like really struggling to hang on in third spot but they are not going to lie down. Marist, on the other hand, now have a real sniff at the semis and I think will go the distance tomorrow on their home ground. Saints by four points.The Lions, at home, against East Coast Bays. Not much to say about this one. I?d love to say the Barracudas will give them a fright but it?s just not going to happen. Mt Albert will win this one by a lot.All games commence at 2.30pm.
A mug punter taking a quick sticky at the Lion Red Fox Memorial draw for this weekend might reckon that it?s fairly easy pickings. This particular, more mature, mug punter however, has been bitten before, badly, so maybe more than a quick sticky is required.The Top Five remains pretty much as it did prior to last weekends games. The Lions maintain their four point buffer out in front. With just three games left, and their final two games being against bottom of the table teams, it?s hard to not see them being Minor Premiers. Papakura Sea Eagles are really their only (mathematical) danger, sitting in outright second spot, on fourteen points. The Northcote Tigers, despite their fairly hefty loss to Papakura last week, are in third place on twelve points. Mangere and Te Atatu make up the balance, both on eleven points, but with the Hawkes in front on points difference. Both Otahuhu and Marist still have every chance of cracking the five, but time is marching on for them. East Coast Bays now languish, firmly at the bottom of the table and one can only wonder how much of a loss to the team was the retirement of Andrew (Slipper) Green. Slipper was a star back in the Lion Red Cup days so maybe the time was right to hang up the boots.Game of the round this week is probably the clash, at Birkenhead War Memorial, between the Northcote Tigers and the Mt Albert Lions. First against third, so there is not a huge amount between these teams. Despite being in third spot, and remembering they were gifted two points through an out of order opposition, Tigers still don?t look like a Grand Final team. However, if I?m being honest, the Lions appear to have been only just doing enough as well and maybe they are both about to go up a notch. A high point of the Tigers year to date, has been the form of 17 year old full back, Nobby Locke. Nobby has been playing outstanding footy and I believe has been rewarded with a Warriors Development contract. Mt Albert by ten points.Another very juicy game will be the match between the Marist Saints and the Mangere East Hawkes. Only three points separate these two with Marist playing to gain a spot in the five and Mangere playing to retain theirs. The equivalent game in Round five saw the Saints hammered 44/4. I don?t see a similar score line in this one but I think a fairly comprehensive win to the Hawkes.Otahuhu Leopards versus Te Atatu Roosters at Henham Park tomorrow. Two points separate them, Roosters in fifth spot and the Leopards in sixth. This the toughest one to pick. The Leopards got the cigar last time, but only by four points. Te Atatu look like they may be starting to hit some form and they may be hitting it at the right time. Roosters by ten.The Papakura Sea Eagles come up over the bridge to take on East Coast Bays at Freyberg Park tomorrow. I am now very wary about suggesting the Sea Eagles should walk it in, in any game, but surely, if all things are indeed equal, that?s what should happen tomorrow. The problem is, although the Barracudas have not gone at all well this year, you just never know when they are going to pull out a blinder, particularly at home. Still, all things are equal?..aren?t they.All games commence at 2.30pm
GEE whiz, the bloke that wrote this column last week needs to take himself outside and give himself thirty uppercuts. He picked one from four and that was the Lions over the Hawkes. He reckoned the Sea Eagles would walk it in over Marist. Marist beat them 36/28. He spouted on about how the game between the Tigers and Roosters would probably be a draw, if not, the Roosters would win. Final score in that game Tigers 22, Roosters 18. Finally, he put the mockers completely on East Coast Bays, by suggesting the Bays would win a narrow one over the Otahuhu Leopards. The Leopards kicked their butt 34/14.
THE Auckland Rugby League Lion Red Fox Memorial competition is rapidly approaching the sharp end of the season, with five rounds left before the Top Five play-offs commence. A hazy Top Five is beginning to take shape, but with ten points still up for grabs, anything can (and probably will) happen.
AFTER a bye weekend last weekend, tomorrow sees the resumption of the Lion Red Fox Memorial competition.