Claws, Marlins, Sharks in race for last finals berth

Samsung QSNL Country reaches a thrilling conclusion this weekend at Smithfield YMCA in Cairns as Marlin Coast Marlins, Capricorn Claws and Whitsunday Sharks battle it out for the remaining finals spot.

The Marlins and Claws sit even on the ladder with 12 points each ahead of their clash on Saturday night, though the Cairns side have a game in hand and clear percentage advantage on their rivals.

Whitsunday Sharks are a mathematical possibility to make finals if the Marlins drop points and they make up their current percentage differential to the leaders with solid wins over Wide Bay Thundercats and ladder leaders Magnetic North Steelcats.

Marlins coach Winnie Whately said she was confident her side could get the job done on their home court across the weekend.

“The girls have been training really hard. They’re confident in their own team spirit and have been building together throughout the season,” Whately said.

“We’ve played the Claws twice – we won one and went down by one point the other time. We’re confident we know what to expect from the Claws and we’re hoping they bring a great contest for us.

“There’s a lot of excitement in our region at the moment around the Marlins. There’s been a belief that these girls can do it and we have the talent in our region to go all the way. The great thing about being back in QSNL is how it’s encouraged the younger players coming through and given them a pathway.”

Claws coach Barb Ahmat said her side would aim to post a big win over the Marlins and cross their fingers the Thundercats could spring a surprise against their rivals on Sunday.

“It’s a must win. A win puts us two points clear of the Marlins and then it would be a wait and see scenario,” Ahmat said.

“We need to get our goal average up there to put ourselves in the best position possible. Stranger things have happened.

“We played Marlins last weekend in the last game of a triple header and went from 16-8 up in the beginning to letting it slip. In the last five minutes we just lost our legs, which you can’t do against a good side.

“The girls are motivated and it’ll be good to go away concentrating totally to beat the Marlins.”

The Claws have struggled for consistency this season – dropping points through two tough triple header weekends – after a bumper 2016 where they topped to competition with an 11-1 record.

“It’s mentally and physically tough playing those triple headers and preparing for three different sides,” Ahmat said.

“Having the under 19s join the competition has cut down on our training partners and depth in our open side. We also lost three of our players at the start of the season – two to pregnancy and one to relocation.

“Given the circumstances, I think the girls have done marvellously well and shown a lot of resilience in the face of those obstacles and a tough draw.”

Samsung QSNL Fixtures

Division 1 (Coomera Indoor Sports Centre) – 27 May 2017

2pm: Tigers v Wildcats
2pm: Panthers v Claws
2pm: Thundercats v Lynx
2pm: Jaguars v Cougars

4pm: Lions v Tigers (Div 2)
4pm: Cougars v Panthers (Div 2)
4pm: Jaguars v Lynx (Div 2)

6pm: Cougars v Lynx (Div 1)
6pm: Lions v Wildcats (Div 1)
6pm: Jaguars v Tigers (Div 1)

Country (Smithfield YMCA) – 27 May 2017

5pm: Thundercats v Sharks
7pm: Marlins v Claws

28 May 2017

9.30am: Steelcats v Sharks
9.30am: Marlins v Thundercats