With one full round of QSL fixtures left this season, plus one catch-up game against Bundaberg Spirit, the task ahead of the Brisbane Strikers when they resume their campaign next weekend has become clear – win six of your last nine fixtures to become QSL champions.
The Strikers sat out this weekend with the bye, but the results from the fixtures contested by all of the other teams are in and they have set the stage for the last complete round of fixtures which are due to begin next weekend.
The Strikers’ withering mid-season form surge has left them ten points clear at the top of the table ahead of their traditional foes, Sunshine Coast Fire, who have a one-point break over both the FNQ Bulls and Whitsunday Miners. Given that the greatest number of points the Fire can attain is 57 (if they were to win all of their last nine fixtures), the Strikers now know that 58 points is the target they must aim for if they are to make certain of snatching the title of Queensland Champions off the Fire – hence the equation of six wins from nine matches.
The last round of fixtures contains some arduous assignments for the Strikers, who must play each of the other three teams in the top four – the Fire, Bulls and Miners – away from home. They also have two five-hour bus trips to Bundaberg to factor in, while their four remaining home fixtures offer easier prospects (at least on paper) as they entertain the Gold Coast next Saturday, and then QAS Football, Capricorn Cougars and North Queensland Razorbacks over the next two months.
The Fire kept their championship defence alive today with a comfortable 4-1 win at home over the Cougars – a performance that signalled they are not about to relinquish their title without a fight. They will pin their hopes on beating the Strikers at Stockland Park in three weeks’ time to reduce their points deficit, while hoping that Strikers slip up away to the Miners and the Bulls while also dropping a point or two at home.
But while the Fire contemplate what will be required for them to remain champions, they have a fight on their hands from the Bulls and the Miners even to retain second position. Both of these teams have their best-ever chance to finish in the top-two and compete for Grand Final hosting rights and will also consider that if the Fire still retain hopes of reeling in the Strikers, then so do they. An early crunch match in the battle of the top four will arrive next weekend when the Miners travel south from Mackay to take on the Fire at Stockland Park.
The results in a high-scoring Round 18 were as follows:
Whitsunday Miners 4 Gold Coast 2
FNQ Bulls 3 Bundaberg Spirit 0
QAS Football 5 North Queensland Razorbacks 3
Sunshine Coast Fire 4 Capricorn Cougars 1