Grand Final Preview
Battle of the Giants
The local AFL could not have written a better script for the Grand Finals to be decided at BCU International Stadium on Saturday.
The best two sides in the AFL North Coast competition in Sawtell and North Coffs will face off for yet another premiership.
Both clubs have won six out of the eight premierships in the new millennium and another will be added after an epic encounter that is expected to be fought out at BCU Stadium.
Sawtell will start warm favourites against the battle hardened North Coffs Kangaroos. Now I say favourites because the Roos have not gotten close to the Saints all season and on that alone one would expect a comfortable victory to the top side. However, those around AFL would appreciate that finals are a different kettle of fish altogether (just ask the Coffs Swans who got unmercifully thrashed by Norths last week after dominating them all year).
The Kangaroos despite finishing fourth in the regular season have masterfully built their charge towards the Grand Final, indicated last week with an emphatic win over the Coffs Swans. They out muscled the Swans, in similar fashion to the way Sawtell unsettled them in the second semi, and look the only side capable of standing up to the Saints' aggressive tactics.
It looked like the ‘Roos of old with midfield dominance and consistency across the park by the way of everyone fulfilling their roles to a tee.
Conversely, the Saints have been the undisputed frontrunners this season, losing only twice, and are again strongly represented on Grand Final day with Saints sides filling all grades. It is a true mark to the club for the strength in their playing roster.
The match ups are intriguing.
Sam Dawes has had a superb finals series, with another Best on Ground display last week. He demands perfection and is a great rolemodel with his work ethic underestimated considering his immense skill. He may line up beside Mark Couzens. Couzens is one of the best players to ever feature on the North Coast and both are strong chances to take out the Woodlock Medal for best afield in the Grand Final. Couzens may be the only player able to match Dawes' height and running game. No doubt, Sawtell coach, Russ Matthews will have spent some time on trying to shut him down and negate his influence.
The ‘Roos greatest improvement has been up forward in recent weeks. Their structure is now arguably the best in the competition and they will have to take advantage of every chance against a stingy Saints defence, led by Josh Edwards. Trent Cook was a genuine target last week, with Darren Funston again amongst the goal scorers. Funston is in the League’s top players, being best for the North Coast in the Representative Carnival and can rotate from the midfield into attack. Jordan O’Connor is a dangerous mark deep in the forward line, whilst the experience of Jamie Coad and Matthew Crispe will be crucial.
Sawtell are the best team in terms of depth and are able to attack through several avenues. Ben Hooke is their main target and has destroyed the ‘Roos in recent encounters. Les Cohen has shown his worth this season as a small forward, as has Lachlan Draper-Bell. Veteran Saints forward, Dave Meyers, treats every grand final like his last and will do anything to unsettle opponents. His likely tag would be Mat Gleeson or Joe Kane, both experienced campaigners who know how to handle themselves.
Josh Drum and Jai Hardy are sure to renew acquaintances during the afternoon which will have the crowd on their feet. These two go back a way and are uncompromising at the footy, and whatever gets in between. Add to this Brad Giri (Norths) and Daniel Pritchard (Saints) who rise to the big occasion and are skilled football, uncompromising in their style. This quartet will be crucial in the centre clearances duel.
The duel between George Connolly and Courtney Tune may swing the match in either direction, with both showing great form in recent matches.
This is a match not for the faint hearted. The umpires will have to be on their toes in what promises to be an enthralling contest with the potential to explode at any moment.
All paths lead us to believe this will be one of the best grand finals of recent times. Kick-off just after 2.30pm.
Port gunning for another Reserves Premiership
The Port Macquarie Magpies will contest their 9th consecutive grand final against a tough and determined Sawtell.
This match will be intriguing to say the least, and there is recent history and some animousity between the two clubs.
The last match yielded a player count and further investigation and even this week, players have been prevented from playing in the match due to not meeting eligibility requirements (playing too many senior matches).
One thing is for certain, both sides will be even more pumped to win this one...
With no other grades on show the Pies are looking to reverse the second semi loss to the Saints.
Sawtell have dominated the regular season but it may come to nothing with Port showing a resurgence in form with a strong display against the Swans last week.
The ‘Pies won easily and know how to make it all the way in the Reserves’, whereas Sawtell will be making their way into unchartered waters.
Gordon Wiegold was dominant last week and will gain strong support from Robert Arantz and Ray Grimson, who have had strong finals series.
Sawtell have a good mix in their group and look on paper to be the classier outfit. Sam Johnston is a midfielder capable of winning the football, whilst Kyah Schwartz and Steve Jackson are experienced and their experience will prove invaluable for the Saints over the course of the match.
It paves the way for two well-oiled outfits to battle it out in what should be a tight encounter.
Swans to respond to their wake up call
Yes, the Swans did receive a major wake up call in the first semi final, and this has probably done them the world of good in preparing them for this clash against the Saints.
They will take their opponents more seriously and will need to throw away individual glory to match Sawtell, who are a team with undeniable chemistry.
The Swans were made to work for their shot at the premiership in their match against Nambucca Valley. There were a few nervous moments until the Swans gained the ascendancy late in the contest.
Hamish Pearce will return from senior duties joining Shane Adams, Sam Turner and Fraser Duryea. They will need to switch on early to unsettle the classy Sawtell who have Elliott Schmidt and Blake Brissett firing up forward and a talented midfield including Simon Taylor and Jack Gillingham.
This is the nucleus of their side and they are renowned for their hard work and endurance having trained hard since pre-season. Daniel Klaasson will be another important player and will be doing what he can to rough up the Swans.
In a boost for the Swans, Blake Ford looks set to return from injury in a boost to the Swans midfield division.
The Saints know that they won't enjoy the easy victory they had two weeks ago against the previously undefeated side this season.
This promises to be a cracker!
10.45am- Under 18s: Sawtell v Coffs Swans
12.30pm- Reserves: Sawtell v Port Macquarie
2.45pm- Seniors: Sawtell v North Coffs
Gates open 9.30am
U/12 Free, U/18 $4.00, Adults $8.00
- Recreational Football prior to Seniors game
- BCU Boot Competition at half-time of Seniors game