Tiger redemption or Sawtell dominance – who will win Seniors?
Grafton Tigers are on the verge of completing one of the great resurrection stories in local sport, but find the competition’s most successful club, Sawtell Toormina Saints, standing in their way.
In the five year period from 2015 to 2019, the Tigers managed only three wins from 68 matches played. Prior to the start of this season, the club had lost 43 consecutive matches and had to go back to round 3 of 2017 to find its last win.
However, the Tigers started the season with a win over the defending Premiers and have just kept on winning in 2020 to top the ladder with a 77% win ratio and be the first team into the Grand Final.
Key to the form reversal of the Tigers has been the return of Premiership heroes Adi Campbell (coach), Benny Holder, Sam Morrison, and Mitch Lollback. The inclusion of these players has not only added quality to the roster, but has shared the load with established stars such as Luke Stanford, whilst reducing the expectation on young guns such as Ronan Leslie and Evan Whitty who have not had to play in key positions in 2020.
Since winning their first Senior flag in 1997, the Saints have made winning Premierships a habit. In the past 15 years Sawtell has won nine Senior titles, making it the most successful club in League history.
Where the 2020 playing list is different to previous seasons is the proliferation of local youngsters who have learnt their trade in the Saints colours. The emergence of a new crop of talented players has provided the Saints with a much better balance than in the last couple of years. This is highlighted by players such as Jonah Horan, Angus Anderson, Tyler Donovan, and Ronan Singleton whose presence allows Mitch Napier, Brandt Lee, and Matt Dwyer to focus on playing key position roles rather than having to switch hit between multiple positions throughout a match.
The Tigers are yet to lose to Sawtell in four outings across the 2020 season, however the teams did record the first draw in memory in the Senior grade in round 5. The average winning margin across the four previous meetings is 15 points, and this couple with the draw, points to an extremely tight tussle.
The Senior Grand Final is at 4:00pm on Saturday 10 October at C.ex Coffs International Stadium. Tickets must be pre-purchased through the Eventbrite website.