Finals Week 1 Preview
Major Semi Final:
New England Nomads v Inverell Saints at Bellevue Oval
After 17 rounds, the TAFL has reached the business end of the season, with the Minor Premier Nomads playing host the 2010 champion Saints at Armidale on Saturday afternoon. These two teams met just a fortnight ago, with the Nomads prevailing at home by 10 points. The boys from Armidale have had the wood over their northern neighbours over the past two seasons after enduring a 5 year drought before 2011.
First year Nomads coach Tom Granleese is getting the best out of his men this season, and has turned them into a formidable outfit that has claimed outright favouritism for this year’s flag. They have knocked off the Saints and Roos in consecutive weeks and look the team to beat as the competition heads into the finals. Their strength this year is stemming from a miserly backline that runs and rebounds with dash and accuracy. They have limited the potent Saints forward line twice this season, and if the likes of Granleese, Economou and Ballagh can get on top on Saturday, the Nomads may well be too good.
They will line up against the most potent forward line in the competition. Griffiths Medal winner Mike Gould will line up at half forward, with Joe Kimmince and Alex Walker having good days out last weekend. Throw in Chris Whitton and most probably Jason Gobbert, and there are plenty of attacking options for the boys from Inverell.
That’s where this match will be won or lost, and the only time the Saints forwards got on top this season they wound up with a 100 point victory. I think the Nomads have learnt their lesson from that match, and will be too quick on the rebound for the Saints.
TAFL Tipster – Nomads by 3 goals
Minor Semi Final:
Tamworth Kangaroos v Gunnedah Bulldogs at Number One Oval
The second semi final sees the Roos battle the Dogs in a game that looks one sided on paper. The Roos narrowly missed a top 2 spot, and a win last week would have seen them host a Major Semi on this ground rather than this do or die clash. The Dogs on the other hand finished in fourth, some 6 wins behind the Roos in the regular season. However, footy is not played on paper. One could argue that none of the top three sides would’ve wanted to take on the Dogs in this clash. The boys from Gunnedah have beaten the Nomads this season, and pushed the Saints and Roos all the way to the final siren. These two clubs met a fortnight ago as well, with the Roos getting the jump early and were never headed. The Dogs cannot allow that to happen this week.
The strength of both these teams lies in the midfield. The Roos are led through the middle by captain coach Tim Cotter, with Matthew Hodge and Cameron Douglas hard to slow down around the ground. Add to this the twin speedster threats of Lachlan Maloney and Gillies Medallist Alex Hudson, and the Roos midfield can get away from a team if you allow them an inch of space. Dan Overeem has been in strong form up front, and always gets some support from his midfielders when they crept forward for a breather. Whoever takes Overeem, will have their hands full but the contest will go a long way to deciding the outcome.
The Dogs are no slouches in the midfield either. Andrew George was the winner of the SportingPulse award on Saturday night and he will be hard to restrict if not picked up by a stopper this weekend. Throw in last year’s joint Gillies Medallist Paul Brown and Scott Hardy, and these Dogs will like their chances of going head to head in the middle of the ground. Chris Gee finished runner up in the Griffiths Medal this year and he will revel in some quality supply from his midfield mates. If he can slot a bagful, the Dogs will be right in this in the last 5 minutes.
It is tough to see the Roos getting rolled here, but the Dogs have the opportunity to cause a huge upset here if things go their way. The question is whether or not the Roos give them a chance to get into the match.
TAFL Tipster – With too many experienced campaigners, the Roos should win by 4 goals.