The Manchester Mosquitoes are set to host the AFL Central Northern England (AFL CNE) semi-finals tomorrow in Manchester. The semi-finals “Super Saturday” brings together six teams from the CNE League – the Merseyside Saints, Sheffield Thunder, Manchester Mozzies, Huddersfield Rams, Wolverhampton Wolverines and the Nottingham Scorpions will battle it out in three massive matches to claim their finals spots on the ladder. Check out how all the teams have been performing this season and how they’re shaping up for this weekend’s semi-finals.
Match 1: Merseyside Saints v Sheffield Thunder
The Merseyside Saints have come a long way in the two-year history of their club. In only their second season, the team has improved massively and despite being in 7th place on the ladder, their squad has taken steps in the right direction. Last year the Saints lost out to the top sides by over 200 points and have managed to close that margin to 60 points this season.
The Saints are organising a big recruitment drive this winter to round out the current squad and get some new talent in their ranks. As their current most experienced player has only played 15 Aussie Rules games, the young club is still finding their feet and improving quickly.
The squad, while disheartened by their lack of wins this year, can appreciate the progress the team has made this season.
This weekend they will be heading into the match missing a few of their key players, but say their team is raring to take the opportunity to fill the gaps available. Merseyside Saints Coach says their team is ready to take on the Sheffield Thunder, stating
“We have the quality at the back of Dan Furlong and Kieran Cook available along with the McKenzie brothers so I feel confident that we should give Sheffield a fair crack and do the AFLCNE justice with an exciting semi final.”
Sheffield Thunder have also had a tough season unfortunately, and are in 6th place on the ladder separated by percentage from the Saints. The season has been difficult for them due to small numbers and limited player availability, meaning that some of their tougher matches have been played with the absolute minimum.
Early on in the season, the Thunder got close to taking down finalist teams the Huddersfield Rams and Nottingham Scorpions and put up a great fight in both matches. The last time they came up against the Saints was a great result for the Sheffield Thunder, and they managed to get their first victory of the season over Merseyside.
Sheffield are also missing a few key players in this round due to the approaching AFL International Cup, but have pulled together a strong side with some new talent for this weekend’s semi final.
Match 2: Manchester Mozzies v Huddersfield Rams
The Huddersfield Rams have had an interesting run this season, with a great record of wins at their home games but struggling to take out their matches on the road. Despite this, the Rams have managed to finish the regular season in 4th place on the ladder, securing themselves a place in the final. With this season marking their 7th consecutive finals appearance, the Rams are looking to finish the season strong against perhaps the AFL CNE’s toughest opponent – the Manchester Mozzies.
The Ram’s have made massive improvements on their skill levels this season and have a young, physical squad who their Coach says “can push any team hard”. Despite missing two of their key players due to the International Cup, they have plenty of players to watch this round – Lewis Ozanna, Josh Kenney, James Clayton and Matthew Whiteley.
2017 has been a challenging year for the Manchester Mosquitoes. With injuries plaguing their team and a few elite players being selected for the Great Britain Bulldogs team to travel to the International Cup, their team has been less consistent than previous seasons. Despite these challenges, the Mozzies have given a few of their newer players a chance to step up into these key roles which will serve them well in the long run.
After suffering a few losses mid season, the Mozzies managed to pull it together and get some strong wins in the last few matches of the season. Thanks to this they have managed to finish the home and away season in top spot on the AFL CNE ladder and will have the advantage of a home match this weekend as they host the semi-finals “Super Saturday”.
Match 3: Nottingham Scorpions v Wolverhampton Wolverines
The Wolverhampton Wolverines have had a successful 2017 season, only losing out in three matches to the top two ladder teams. After finishing the regular season in 3rd place, the Wolverines are looking to play a high intensity match this weekend and will play their hardest to get the win over the Nottingham Scorpions.
In terms of players to watch, the Wolverhampton Coach singles out Cameron Cope, Marcus Argent and Rhys Lincoln as the key players this round. “Cameron has been outstanding for us all season, proving tough to play against for opposing forwards but also capable of cutting loose and scoring some majors when he moves up the ground. Rhys has been superb too – first change in the ruck, on the ball and down at fullback more recently too. Assistant Coach Marcus Argent has been instrumental in many of our better performances through the year – he’s a tall bloke with great hands and kicks off two feet.”
The Wolverines’ Coach also commends his team’s hard work in preparation for the semi finals, saying that the side has “superb fitness levels and excellent distribution coupled with ever-increasing game awareness.
The Scorpions have had a successful run this season, with strong wins against Huddersfield, Tyne Tees Tigers, and Sheffield early on starting the ball rolling for one of their biggest seasons yet. Their efforts have earned them 2nd place on the AFL CNE ladder at the end of the home and away season, and they’ll be taking on the Wolverhampton Wolverines tomorrow to battle for a spot in the grand final.
The Scorpions will be looking to take as strong a side as possible into their match against the Wolverines this weekend. They’re up against a strong Wolverhampton side, and it’s sure to be an action packed game against the 2nd and 3rd place teams.