Regular Season is Over, Here Come the Finals!
The home and away season is over and teams head into the Finals Series with very different perspectives based on the outcome of the last round.
Grafton Tigers came within a goal of completing the shock result of the season against minor premiers Coffs Breakers. The Breakers weren’t at full strength having chosen to rest bodies with an eye on the Finals Series, missing players such as Chris Frangos, Liam Paige, Nic von Schill, and Royce Close who have all regularly appeared amongst the team’s top performers.
Despite this, the overall performance will fill the Tigers with belief that something can be salvaged from what has been another trying season. The efforts of players such as Anthony Batty, Lachlan Glover, and Callum O’Loughlin will have greatly pleased captain coach Luke Stanford, although that joy will also be tinged with frustration at how infrequently he has had a full squad at his disposal.
Too frequently this season the Tigers have started slowly and seen the result slip through their fingers long before the final siren has sounded. This time around they found themselves in the unusual position of being in front at quarter, albeit by the slender margin of 2 points. Normal service was resumed after the first interval with Breakers easing to a two goal lead at the half, which extended to three goals by the last break.
Grafton saved their best for last, winning the final term by two goals, but Breakers solitary major for the quarter proved decisive.
Breakers now have a well-earned rest in the first week of the Finals whilst the Tigers will have renewed hope that they can extend their season beyond Saturday’s Elimination Semi Final.
Coffs Breakers 10.10.70 defeated Grafton Tigers 9.10.64
Port Macquarie Magpies were hopeful of extending their recent improved form but Sawtell Toormina Saints were stung last week and looking to make amends. Whilst Port were competitive throughout, the Saints shaded every quarter to ease to a confidence restoring 6 goal win.
At no point did the Saints look like blowing Port off the park and only outscored the Magpies in the first and last quarters by a single goal. In these quarters in particular the Magpies showed that, at their best, they can still match it with the competition’s two powerhouses.
With the return of Hamish Bird and Leif Stuart the Saints are getting closer to being able to put their strongest team on the park, although they were still missing Matt Dwyer, Andrew Ellis, Aaron Clark, and stalwart Matt Flynn from the line-up so will be confident that there is room for improvement at the business end of the season. Jim Angel wound back the clock to post an eight goal performance that covered for the loss of key forward Clark, but will know that it will be much harder to turn in a performance like this during the Finals and will be keen to see the spearhead back.
Port welcomed back Jesse Schmidt to their line-up from a concussion enforced break, with the team looking as strong as it has done all season. The Magpies had Adam Mannes on the sidelines who is expected to return for next week’s Semi, whilst they are still hopeful that Blake Nelson will recover in time for Saturday’s do-or-die clash.
Sawtell Toormina Saints 14.18.102 defeated Port Macquarie Magpies 10.6.66
Port beat Grafton in the second last round of the season and will use this knowledge to re-group ahead of next week’s Elimination Semi Final between the two clubs. This match is at C.ex Coffs International Stadium so both clubs will have to overcome the travel element that plays such a key role when they face off during the regular season.
Qualifying Semi Finals between the top two teams in each grade will be played the following week (19 August).
Elimination Semi Finals – Saturday 12 August at C.ex Coffs International Stadium
Under 18 – Port Macquarie Magpies v Sawtell Toormina Saints at 12:30pm
Seniors – Port Macquarie Magpies v Grafton Tigers at 2:20pm