Must-watch footy: Best yet to come from Eagles, Bulldogs
IT'S a heavyweight showdown between youth and speed, big men and experience, and coaching tactics.
Saturday night's Rugby League Ipswich Volunteers Cup clash between early pacesetters Goodna and major threats West End offers plenty of intriguing match-ups.
But while West End coach Jae Woodward is working to keep his large squad happy, Goodna mentor Alistair Taua'aletoa is fielding more settled line-ups.
His Eagles combination is the only unbeaten side after two high-scoring rounds.
However, Taua'aletoa was wisely cautious about reading too much into Goodna's early dominance.
"It's one of those things that because no-one's had a lot of football to play before this, everybody is going to get better each week,'' Taua'aletoa said, preparing for the 5.30pm duel at the North Ipswich Reserve.
Like the other astute coaches, he's still sizing up the opposition's strengths and weaknesses.
"The quality of the comp I expect to get a lot harder from here on in,'' he said.
Taua'aletoa and Woodward are both backing youth with the average age of the Eagles and Bulldogs around the 23-24 mark.
With hooker Kaustio Magele being rested after a head knock last Saturday, experienced Eagles player Saunda Seumanutafa provides a "handy replacement'' option.
"He's been our A-Grade lock for the last five or six years,'' Taua'aletoa said.
"He hasn't played yet. He's been training with the squad for the last three weeks and he gets a shot now.''
Nineteen-year-old Segisolo Lapana also comes into the halves with Trivendra Naidu unavailable.
"It's good to see a young Goodna side,'' the coach said. "We haven't seen a very young side in recent years.
"The average age of the team at the moment is 23. So it's pretty refreshing for some of the older guys to just see a lot of guys who just played under-18s last year and now they get to play in the top side this year.''
Taua'aletoa is happy to keep building after his team was pushed by the Norths Tigers last weekend before emerging victorious 36-24.
"Mick Newton (Norths coach) is a pretty smart coach,'' Taua'aletoa said.
"We just had a lot of things go in our favour.
"We pretty much a lot of the possession, which worked well for us.
"I know they (Tigers) will be better for a run next time round.''
Norths open Saturday's third round of matches against Toowoomba side Valleys.
For Woodward, the early challenge has been giving as many players in his large squad as much game time as possible.
With no Reserve Grade competition this season, Woodward has been changing his line-ups each week.
"We're trying to keep 50 guys happy at the moment,'' he said.
The Bulldogs supporter is looking to give some of his footballers a run at Capalaba around their Volunteers Cup commitments.
Senior player Trent Manihera-Paul didn't get through Thursday night training but Mosby brothers Bernard and Harold are back after missing last week's game.
Despite the changes, Woodward has seen plenty of positive signs from his first round 32-20 loss to Toowoomba Souths before last weekend's 36-30 win over Gatton.
"The guys are starting to gel,'' he said.
"We're all new combinations so I'm reasonably happy with where we are going.
"You haven't seen the best of us by a long way.''
The Goodna head coach is also eager to build a solid Eagles squad for the future.
"I'm just trying to figure out what's best overall for who we are playing against each week,'' Taua'aletoa said.
"We have a big squad to pick from.
"That's probably the most difficult part about this comp. There's nowhere to send anyone back to. But we've pretty upfront about expectations. We haven't had any issues thus far.''
Volunteers Cup Round 3 (all matches on Saturday at the North Ipswich Reserve)
1.30pm Norths v Valleys
3.30pm Gatton v Souths
5.30pm West End v Goodna
Ladder: Goodna 4, Norths 2, West End 2, Souths 2, Valleys 2, Gatton 0.