Plenty of powerful players are expected to shine in the Sunshine Coast rugby union semi-finals this weekend.
Plenty of powerful players are expected to shine in the Sunshine Coast rugby union semi-finals this weekend.

Rugby’s pests, silent assassins: 13 to watch in Coast finals

After a tumultuous year, Sunshine Coast's rugby union season has finally reached its pointy end and there's a powerful bunch primed to attack.

The top four A-grade sides will face off in major and minor semi-finals on Saturday eager to take the next step towards a 2020 premiership.

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Noosa will host Caloundra for a shot at progressing directly to the decider.

Meanwhile, USC Barbarians will play host to Maroochydore in an elimination final.

Both games on Saturday are sizzling match ups, with all four teams boasting a powerful bunch of charges primed to shine.

The Sunshine Coast Daily approached all coaches for their thoughts on who's bound to play major roles or pose significant threats.

USC BARBARIANS

Coach Brad Tronc said his players were "pumped" to enter the finals after what had been a massive year due to COVID-19.

"We've been training since the end of January and haven't really stopped," he said.

"We trained through COVID through Zoom sessions in the hope a season would go ahead and we've got a fairly healthy squad at the moment."

Here's who Tronc expected to fire within his own ranks and who to watch out for on the enemy's front.

Matt Lieder has returned to USC Barbarians determined to wrestle back the premiership from Caloundra. Picture: Patrick Woods
Matt Lieder has returned to USC Barbarians determined to wrestle back the premiership from Caloundra. Picture: Patrick Woods

Matt Lieder (USC co-captain and inside centre)

"He leads by example and wears his heart on his sleeve," Tronc said.

"He's a competitor and gets us some good front foot ball so he's in your face all the time and you definitely know you're in a game when you play against him that's for sure.

Luke Kimber (USC co-captain and open side flanker)

"He started to come into his own last weekend," Tronc said.

"To be honest it's like having a coach out there on the field, he understands the game and he's got a level head.

"He competes and is hard on the ball and has a big motor.

"His running game started to come back last week as well which is pleasing to see."

Uni's Mathew Macaulay in action in 2014. Picture: Iain Curry / Sunshine Coast Daily
Uni's Mathew Macaulay in action in 2014. Picture: Iain Curry / Sunshine Coast Daily

Mathew Macaulay (USC)

"He's back this week and we semi-rested him last week so it gave his body a bit of a rest," Tronc said.

"He did start off the season as a back and he's moved into the forwards.

"He tackles anything there and he's got a good running game as well.

"So, I think having him back for the majority of the game this week will have an impact as well."

Maroochydore's Elliot Hagen with ball in 2013. Picture: Brett Wortman / Sunshine Coast Daily
Maroochydore's Elliot Hagen with ball in 2013. Picture: Brett Wortman / Sunshine Coast Daily

Elliot Hagen (Maroochydore)

"If Elliot Hagen plays, he didn't last week, he's always a threat," Tronc said.

"Someone like Elliot in that Maroochydore team will have an impact on the game and I suppose it's up to us to limit that impact.

"If we give him too much space he makes you pay."

MAROOCHYDORE

While the Swans may be down a player or two, coach Will Urquhart says they are still up for the challenge against Barbarians.

"It should be good game, we played them last week so obviously that was a really good indicator for both teams," he said.

"We will be without a couple of key players this week due to injury but we'd like to think we're still in with a chance

Here's who Urquhart expected to fire within his own ranks and who to watch out for on the enemy's front.

Rob Valetini of the Brumbies fails to prevent Mosese Voka of Fiji from scoring a try during the Global Rugby Tens match in 2018. Picture: Dave Hunt
Rob Valetini of the Brumbies fails to prevent Mosese Voka of Fiji from scoring a try during the Global Rugby Tens match in 2018. Picture: Dave Hunt

Mosese Voka (Maroochydore)

"Moses is a really good leader on the field and understands the game of rugby being a Fijian international," Urquhart said.

"He gets around really well and makes his tackles and most of the time they're effective.

"He's just a really big player for us who offers a lot."

Ewen McQueen (Maroochydore)

"He is a big body that gets around well," Urquhart said.

"He offers us a lot at set pieces and he's one that is not a person who talks a lot but he offers a lot through action."

Luke Kimber and Mathew Macaulay (USC)

"He (Kimber) is good across the field and is an open side flanker that's busy and knows his role and job and executes well," Urquhart said.

"Macaulay is the same. He has a lot of energy and can play across multiple positions on field and he offers a lot more than most others."

CALOUNDRA LIGHTHOUSES

Caloundra coach Geoff Ingram said his players were keen to rip in against Noosa, with hopes of securing a fifth-straight grand final appearance.

"Noosa has got the wood on us in the last couple of games but I don't think it's a gap that is in anyway (too big)," Ingram said.

"We're pretty confident we can come across that gap and play well.

"It's just all about the pack just tearing it up and ripping into set pieces and breakdown.

"From there everything else will connect and we'll play well."

Here's who Ingram expected to fire within his own ranks and who to watch out for on the enemy's front.

Dwayne Burrows (Caloundra)

"He's one guy who has been quietly carving it up every week," Ingram said.

"He's a bit of a silent assassin.

"He's a very strong and capable fast outside back.

"(Burrows) has been doing a great job for us so I'm keen to see him rip into it when it counts in finals as well."

Noosa’s Brandon Mayhew. Picture: John McCutcheon
Noosa’s Brandon Mayhew. Picture: John McCutcheon

Brandon Mayhew (Noosa)

"He's been around for a while and has been one of the best players on the Coast for a long time," Ingram said.

"He has got a lot of pace and is quite dangerous out wide.

"We've always got to look out for him so that's one of our focuses this week in addition to ripping into the set piece and breakdown."

Niko Waqanisau (Noosa)

"He's a bit of a pest, in a good way," Ingram said.

"They have a really good scrum set piece and it's not all him but their loose forwards have been really effective as well at poaching ball."

NOOSA

Assistant coach Josh Mason says Noosa are ready for a fierce battle when they face "benchmark" outfit Caloundra this weekend.

"It's a huge game," Mason said.

"Caloundra and Uni have certainly set the benchmark this year and this weekend we have no expectations of what's coming other than it's going to be tough, fast and an all out war."

Here's who Mason expected to fire within his own ranks and who to watch out for on the enemy's front.

Noosa's Brandon Mayhew. Picture: Warren Lynam
Noosa's Brandon Mayhew. Picture: Warren Lynam

Brandon Mayhew (Noosa)

"He does everything well," Mason said.

"He's cool, calm and makes great decisions.

"He knows when to inject himself and when to direct guys around him."

Noosa's Will Rogers eyes off a bone rattler in 2017. Picture: Patrick Woods
Noosa's Will Rogers eyes off a bone rattler in 2017. Picture: Patrick Woods

Will Rogers (Noosa)

"He's a big angry human that's a strong ball carrier, excellent defender and great leader," Mason said.

"He leads by example."

Caloundra's Mitch Platt ahead of the 2019 grand final. Picture: Patrick Woods
Caloundra's Mitch Platt ahead of the 2019 grand final. Picture: Patrick Woods

Mitch Platt and forward pack (Caloundra)

Their forward pack is certainly something we're really conscious of, they've got two big second rowers (including Mitch Platt)," Mason said.

"Their big locks are always a huge danger and they're huge ball carriers.

"If we don't stop them early they start to get on a roll and are very hard to stop once that happens."

Caloundra’s Samisoni Vereniki. Picture: Patrick Woods / Sunshine Coast Daily.
Caloundra’s Samisoni Vereniki. Picture: Patrick Woods / Sunshine Coast Daily.

Eseki Moce and Samisoni Vereniki (Caloundra)

"Their outside backs too, Vereniki and Eseki, are lightning quick and good returners of the ball so we need to be wary of that as well," Mason said.