When the loose man counts for nothing
It is not often a team finishes a game nine goals clear of their opposition and still loses. And no, North Cairns did not just kick 55 more behinds. They did gain direct entry to the AFL Cairns' reserves grand final though, due to a tiny Cairns Saints slip-up that carried severe consequences. Saints, who had lost just once all season heading into their grand final qualifier, were eight goals clear heading into the final quarter. Many of their supporters had already headed home, content in the fact that their seniors and now reserves - who were playing afterwards under lights - would both be in action in a fortnight's time on grand final day. But when Saints ran out for that final stanza, the side returned with one too many. Saints reserves coach Leo Galea said the error was a simple case of the players not properly reading the white-board. "They didn't read where they were playing and went on to the field instead of the bench," Galea said. The 19th man was quickly spotted by the Saints coaching staff and quickly sent to the bench. But rules are rules. AFL Cairns match officials also spotted the error and reverted Saints' score to 0.0(0). Amazingly, Saints rallied from early in the final term, kicking their sixth goal after the siren to come within two points of what would have been an incredible win. In fact, adding further confusion to the situation, Galea thought it was a drawn game, while the scoreboard conflicted again and had Saints trailing by just one. For the record, the final score read, 5.12(42) to 6.4(40). "It was all a bit chaotic. But we're happy to cop it,"Galea said. "Obviously not impressed with it at the end of the day. We were on a big high at three-quarter time and we have a great squad of guys. "They showed their character by just copping it sweet and coming back like they did in that final quarter." Saints must now play Port Douglas in preliminary final next weekend to guarantee their place in the decider. "That'll be tough, because they've brought a few seniors back in. But if we can get past them it'll give us confidence,"Galea said. And you can be sure they won't make the same mistake again.