Reigning AFL North Coast Premiers knocked out of finals

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Reigning premier Grafton won’t be competing in the 2021 AFL North Coast finals series.

By Brad Greenshields

Even before the Tigers match against the top of the ladder Coffs Breakers they needed to win all of their remaining matches and have other results go their way to sneak into the top four.

Saturday’s 68-point loss means there’s no longer a mathematical possibility of finishing fourth for Grafton.

For the Coffs Breakers the result means the exact opposite. With two matches remaining the Breakers can’t be knocked off top spot on the ladder.

The Breakers jumped out of the blocks on Saturday kicking six goals to one in the opening term. That opening burst included debutant Tom Walsh kicking the first goal of the game with his first kick in senior football.

Knowing that their season was on the line Grafton fought back in the second term and winning the contested ball count coupled with an increase of pressure on the opposition helped reduce the margin to 18-points by the time the two teams went into the sheds.

After the break the Breakers showed a ruthless streak and kicked 10 goals to two in the second half.

The victors shared the scoring around with 10 players scoring the goals with Josh Lansdowne the best of them with five. Angus Wood who was the best player on the ground chimed in with two goals of his own.

Breakers coach Kevin Wilson said it was good that his team had learned from their previous match against Grafton. Earlier in the season Coffs got away to a quick start only to worry more about the opposition while Grafton fought back to nearly cause an upset. This result was different which pleased the coach.

“It was good that we maintained our composure in the second half,”  Wilson said.

“There were some calm heads in the sheds at half time and assistant coach Matt Dagger was one of those.”

COFFS BREAKERS 6.3 8.4 13.7 18.10 (118)
GRAFTON 1.1 5.4 6.7 7.8 (50)
Goals – Coffs: J.Lansdowne 5, B.Neary 2, A.Wood 2, N.Stanlan-Velt 2, T.Walsh 2, A.Wallace, D.Homan, L.Beacom, H.Cekanauskas, L.Reid. Graf: S.Morrison 3, B.Nelson 2, D.Lovell, M.Luxton.
Reserves: Coffs Breakers 17.10 (112) def Grafton 0.2 (2)
Under-17s: Grafton 19.14 (128) def Coffs Breakers 4.6 (30)

Sawtell/Toormina’s Darryn Ragless escapes the clutches of a Port Macquarie opponent. Photo: Green Shoots Marketing

Saints win a thriller

SAWTELL/TOORMINA has moved into the top four with a three-point win over fellow finals aspirant Port Macquarie.

It was a contest the Saints looked in control of for the majority of the match, particularly after they turned an eight point deficit at quarter time into a 15-point lead at the main break.

The margin stayed around that mark for most of the second half until the Magpies kicked two late goals to get to within a kick of the home team.

Port Macquarie’s coach Matt Clarke admitted he found it hard to believe at times that his team was still within reach of being able to steal a win.

“Every time I looked at the scoreboard I was surprised because I thought they (Sawtell/Toormina) were so much more ahead of us just because of the energy that our team was creating. It seemed like the energy of a 50-points down team,” Clarke said.

“So I was always surprised when I looked at it which just shows that that loss was on us. It had something to do with the opposition but that was well within our grasp.”

Royce Close was always dangerous for the Magpies inside Port’s attacking 50 and he scored three goals to be among the team’s best along with Braden Saggers who was busy around the ground and also kicked two goals himself.

Sawtell/Toormina was best served in front of goal by Darrn Ragless who kicked four goals. Ragless has only played the last three matches for the Saints but has proven a dangerous weapon in front of the big sticks kicking a total of 15 goals so far.

In a difficult match to play due to a strong wind pushing play almost exclusively over to the eastern side of Richardson Park, Saints playing coach Brandt Lee said his team’s ability to roll its sleeves up and get to work now matter how hard might’ve proved the difference.

“When it’s time to dig deep our group just knows how to,” Lee said.

“We knew the situation we were in ladder wise and finals are only a sniff away so we’re building to play our best footy looking forward toward that but we knew there were obstacles in the way to be able to get there and this (the match against Port) was a major one. We knew the situation and we just dug deep and we were really pushing for that win to set us up for a finals spot.”

SAWTELL TOORMINA 2.2 8.3 11.4 13.7 (85)
PORT MACQUARIE 3.4 5.6 8.9 12.10 (82)
Goals – Saw: D.Ragless 4, J.Perks 3, W.Lloyd, L.Matthews, B.Cox, S.Schellenberger, C.Perks, K.Upsall. Port: R.Close 3, T.Dickson 2, B.Saggers 2, J.Hall 2, N.Cameron-Hancock, L.Pratt, A.Pratt.
Reserves: Sawtell/Toormina 7.3 (45) def Port Macquarie 2.4 (16)

Braden Saggers looks for a teammate to handpass to against Sawtell/Toormina. Photo: Green Shoots Marketing

Swans now have a chance to fly higher

THE Lismore Swans have themselves a chance of finishing the season with a coveted double chance after winning a hard fought battle against Northern Beaches.

The Swans dominated the first half of the contest at Oakes Oval and built a commanding 32-point lead by half time. A margin that should’ve been greater considering at that stage the Swans had 15 scoring shots on the board compared to just three from Northern Beaches.

When the Blues came out of the sheds after the break they had renewed vigour and changed a few things up to kick three unanswered goals in the third term to reduce the margin to 14 points.

The home team steadied in the last and secured the important four points.

Northern Beaches coach Rory Evans said the Blues were missing important defenders Danniel Johnson and Daley Bear but refused to say that was the reason for the result.

“They just played better than us in the first half and we couldn’t quite claw it back,” Evans said.

“We did a good job to get close because at half time they (Lismore) were well in front.”

This weekend Northern Beaches plays a catch-up game against Sawtell/Toormina. If the Saints beat the Blues like they did only a couple of weeks ago, the Swans will then move up to second position on the ladder.

LISMORE SWANS 4.6 6.9 6.11 8.15 (63)
NORTHERN BEACHES 2.0 2.1 5.3 6.6 (42)

The defence of the Casino Lions was forced to work hard by Nambucca Valley. Photo: Paul Taylor

Big win for Nambucca

NAMBUCCA Valley has recorded its greatest winning margin in its senior history with a 103-point win over the Casino Lions.

Playing in their final home game for the season, the Nambucca team bared its claws after quarter time.

At the first break the margin was just 13-points and few at that stage were brave enough to predict a large margin. Especially after Casino’s leading goalkicker Tim Myers booted a major early in the second term.

But in the second and third quarters Nambucca Valley kicked 12 goals to Casio’s one and the margin had ballooned out to 82-points.

Four goals from veteran Jim Angel and two each from Aaron Clarke and Heath Galvin formed the basis for Nambucca’s highest score of the year.

Casino will travel to Port Macquarie this weekend for a catch-up game before playing another away game at Woolgoolga and finishing the season with a home game against the Coffs Breakers.

NAMBUCCA VALLEY 2.3 7.7 14.8 18.13 (121)
CASINO LIONS 0.2 1.2 1.4 2.6 (18)
Goals – N.V: J.Angel 4, A.Clarke 2, H.Galvin 2, E.Linares, H.Suridge, J.McGregor, K.Cohen, B.Toohey, T.Morris, B.Venner, A.Boatfield, D.McInerney, H.Lee. Cas: T.Myers 2.

SENIOR LADDER

PWDLWIN %FORAGST%
Coffs Breakers12110191.671193629189.67
Northern Beaches1171368.18813562144.66
Lismore Swans1280466.671277587217.55
Sawtell/Toormina1170463.63911756120.50
Port Macquarie1160554.54994787126.30
Grafton1241737.501084916118.34
Nambucca Valley12201016.67535103551.69
Casino Lions1100110.00292182715.98

CATCH-UP ROUND – Saturday, July 24

NORTHERN BEACHES vs SAWTELL/TOORMINA at Centennial Oval, Woolgoolga
(11.50am – Women; 1.20pm – Reserves; 2.50pm – Seniors)
PORT MACQUARIE vs CASINO LIONS at Wayne Richards Park, Port Macquarie
(2.50pm – Seniors)

UNDER-17s CROSS CONFERENCE ROUND

GLEN INNES vs GRAFTON at King George V Oval, Glen Innes (10am)
INVERELL SAINTS vs SAWTELL/TOORMINA at Varley Oval, Inverell (10am)
COFFS BREAKERS vs TAMWORTH ROOSTERS at Fitzroy Oval/Old Camp, Coffs Harbour (11.30am)

Coffs Breakers utility Hayden Cekanauskas lays a strong tackle against Grafton. Photo: Green Shoots Marketing

Womens AFL

It wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination but dogged determination by Sawtell/Toormina has them sitting inside the top four for the first time in 2021.

Sawtell/Toormina coach Bec Minichilli admits the result means that the Saints are now quietly starting to mention the ‘F word’ – finals.

“We do think about finals now. It’s been no secret that this year has always been about rebuilding our culture but I think while we’ve focused on rebuilding our culture we’ve almost forgotten about how good we could be,” Minichilli said.

“That game against Woopi (northern Beaches) a couple of weeks ago was a real turning point for us because even though we didn’t win we saw the standard that we can play at. Now we’re like ‘we can build our culture and win’.

“We feel like we’re stuck in a bit of a cheesy sports movie where we’re starting to turn it around and we’ll see if we can have a good run home.”

The windy conditions at Richardson Park saw the ball often camped on the eastern wing and there was just one goal kicked for the match between the Saints and Port Macquarie.

It was a fine goal though with Sawtell/Toormina’s emerging teen Lilli-Yana Moody collecting the ball just inside the centre square before going for a long run to get past two opponents and kick truly from 20 metres out.

It was much needed as the Magpies, who felt aggrieved throughout the match that they were on the wrong side of a series of 50:50 decisions, controlled territory in the first half but were unable to turn that advantage into scoreboard pressure.

The Saints coach said her girls simply hung in there and with a bit of tweaking to the game style, momentum shifted their way.

“I think the first half wasn’t to our standard at all, so to keep it up after half time I felt it was a really gutsy effort,” Minichilli said.

“I felt like we hung in there in the first half even though our skills weren’t where they were supposed to be but in the second half I think the girls dug in deep to work more as a team.

“From half way to our attacking 50 it was like no man’s land, there was no one in there in the first half and we really had to work on that linkage and once we got that in the third we played a lot better.”

SAWTELL/TOORMINA 0.0 0.0 1.2 1.3 (9)
PORT MACQUARIE 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.2 (2)
Goals – Saw: L.Moody. Port: Nil.

Swans still a chance for top-two finish

THE come from behind victory produced by the Lismore Swans means they’re still a chance of earning a double chance in the finals come the season’s end.

The Swans trailed Northern Beaches by five points at half time but came out strong in the third term to boot two goals to one to grab a two point lead.

In an tense, arm wrestle in the last quarter, it was the home team who managed to keep inside their attacking 50 metre arc for longer

“We started slowly but I was proud of the way the girls came out after half time,” Lismore Swans coach Ken McPherson said about his team.

“The girls maintained the structure for most of the match and in the second half they got the rewards for that.”

Both the Swans and the Blues are locked in a battle for second spot on the ladder. Both will play Sawtell/Toormina in the run home to the finals while Northern Beaches has a game in hand and that is in the last round when the Blues travel to Port Macquarie.

LISMORE SWANS 0.1 0.3 2.4 2.6 (18)
NORTHERN BEACHES 0.0 1.2 2.2 2.2 (14)
Goals – Lis: TBC. N.B: R.Bennett, S.King.

Bella Crawley kick the Coffs Breakers into attack against Grafton. Photo: Green Shoots Marketing

Breakers flex their muscle

THE Coffs Breakers were at their imperious best against Grafton.

Since being stung by the loss to Northern Beaches three weeks ago, the Breaker have played two hours of football and conceded just the one behind in that time.

On Saturday the Coffs team held Grafton scoreless while kicking 12 goals themselves – three in each quarter.

The consistent effort throughout the four quarters and across the oval pleased Breakers coach Brad Giri.

“I was really pleased with the effort. It was a four quarter effort,” Giri said.

A surprise leading goalkicker for the day was the Breakers’ usual full back Sarah Vidler. Vidler was moved forward and clearly enjoyed her run in attack kicking six goals.

Giri said there may be some more surprise moves when the Breakers play next in what will be their last match of the home and away season at Port Macquarie on July 31.

“We tried a few things like moving our full back to full forward and it worked well with Sarah kicking six. We’re trying a few things just in case we have to change anything in the finals,” he said.

COFFS BREAKERS 3.3 6.7 9.9 12.13 (85)
GRAFTON 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 (0)
Goals – Coffs: S.Vidler 6, D.Watson 2, C.Ronalds, B.Crawley, K.Griffith, T.Kachel. Graf: Nil.

WOMEN’S LADDER

PWDLWIN %FORAGST%
Coffs Breakers980188.8953982657.32
Northern Beaches860275.00339153221.57
Lismore Swans960366.67284223127.35
Sawtell/Toormina720528.577425329.25
Port Macquarie820625.0011721155.45
Grafton910811.1110353519.25

CATCH-UP ROUND – Saturday, July 24

NORTHERN BEACHES vs SAWTELL/TOORMINA at Centennial Oval, Woolgoolga
(11.50am – Women; 1.20pm – Reserves; 2.50pm – Seniors)
PORT MACQUARIE vs CASINO LIONS at Wayne Richards Park, Port Macquarie
(2.50pm – Seniors)

UNDER-17s CROSS CONFERENCE ROUND

GLEN INNES vs GRAFTON at King George V Oval, Glen Innes (10am)
INVERELL SAINTS vs SAWTELL/TOORMINA at Varley Oval, Inverell (10am)
COFFS BREAKERS vs TAMWORTH ROOSTERS at Fitzroy Oval/Old Camp, Coffs Harbour (11.30am)

It was a tense affair between Sawtell/Toormina and Port Macquarie with just one goal kicked for the match. Photo: Green Shoots MarketingL

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