Who should you keep your eye on when (if) this thing starts up again.
To be fair, most of the action at this year’s Margaret River Pro has been done without singlets. After an opening flurry at North Point, the post heat almost-fisticuffs between Jesse Mendes and Mikey Wright and the two sharks attacks in one day have taken most of the headlines. However with a lay day today a look at the Round 3 match-ups sees potential for real fireworks. Here are six heats worth analysing.
Italo Ferreira vs Michael Rodrigues
The man at the top of the Jeep Leaderboard, Italo Ferreira has shown, despite the jarring colour clash with his red and blue wetsuit, that he is comfortable in the Yellow Jersey. His backhand suits the power of Main Break and he won’t mind operating on the surgeon’s table if it means an extra .05 of a point. Rodrigues, along with Griffin Colapinto, has been the surprise rookie of 2018 and his speed and flow is ideally suited to the CT. Both have enormous air games too which will hopefully come into play if the winds come up.
Julian Wilson vs Kael Walsh
“I’m here to square my shoulders and fight for the yellow jersey. I’m not here to be timid,” said Julian Wilson after his Round 1 win. The fact that he can square his shoulders at all is a massive bonus, and every day he seems to be heading in the right direction back to full fitness. Bells was a blow however, and he can’t afford a loss if he wants to keep the lead. Walsh on the other hand has nothing to lose. The local has also been refreshingly open about doing whatever it takes to win. His chances will also be upped considerably if they surf at the Box.
Gabriel Medina vs Jack Robinson
Ditto for Jack Robinson. Jack’s form on the QS has been abysmal over the last few years, and I just can’t see how he could defeat Medina on the fat Margies wall. However if North Point and especially The Box come into play the tables are flipped. In righthand barrels at home Robinson would have to be considered favourite. After Bells, which featured wildcards nowhere near CT level, it’s awesome to see local surfers performing at a level that can really have an impact on the World Title.
Filipe Toledo vs Yago Dora
Dora won his first heat of the CT year in Round 2, a confidence boost that could make all the difference. His talent is easily top 10 and he has the mix of power and progression that suits Margaret River. A breakthrough result will come, but he will need to get past Toledo to do it. It was Margaret River last year that Toledo proved has the rail game to succeed in waves of consequence. He’s bulked up since then and no longer relies on pure speed and aerial wizardry to get the job done. If they push each other, this could be one of the most exciting heats of the round.
Michel Bourez vs Connor O’Leary
We talked before about the consistency of Bourez at Margaret River, and the Tahitian has shown all the form that won him a title here in 2014. Coming off back-to-back quarterfinals at Snapper and Bells Bourez too looks as sharp as any stage in his career. O’Leary on the other hand has had a slow start to 2018, winning just one heat. Yet he knows the West well and has shown glimpses of the form that saw him finish as World No. 13 last year. He’ll need to match Bourez’ power, but should be surfing on his biggest strength; his backhand.
John John Florence vs Mikey Wright
Yep, saving the best till last. These two meet for the fourth time in three events. Wright put a significant dent in Florence’s quest for a three-peat at Snapper, and could do even more permanent damage here. Florence performance at the Margaret River Pro last year undoubtably makes him favourite, but it’s a testament to Wright’s growing competitive stature that he is seen as one of just a handful of surfers who has the firepower to push Florence all the way. It’s easily the match-up of the Round and one which will have further reverberations down the line.