Hawks soar to premiership
Not many people thought they could do it, but that only spurred on Manunda on Saturday as they surged to the AFL Cairns premiership against Saints at Cazalys. The Hawks kicked the first three goals with the aid of a howling breeze and then resisted everything that Saints threw at them to eventually run away with a six-goal victory – 14.9 (93) to 8.10 (58).
The result came just a fortnight after Saints had beaten them by 92 points, but Manunda looked a different team from that one on Saturday. Led by best-on-ground Lukas Ehlich in midfield and captain Lenny Warren on the ball, the Hawks ran Saints into the ground. There were many adjectives coach Paul Griffiths could have used to describe the win. In the end he went with monumental.
"Geez, yeah I’m speechless. They didn’t believe us and we knew it and that gave us another leg," he said. "It was monumental. To lead the whole way like we did and fight. They ran themselves into the ground. They are a terrifically proud club (Saints), they’ve won three in a row. To beat the best is terrific and to get over the line when no one believed in us is terrific."
Not even the return of Saints forward Matt Walsh from a foot injury could help the three-time defending champions in their tilt. He was well held by the smaller but pacey Willie Aisi, while at the other end James Scrymgour became more threatening as the game unfolded.
With the wind at their backs Saints needed to overturn a four-goal deficit in the final quarter, but instead it was Scrymgour who played hero. He booted two of his three majors into the breeze in the final term, each time turning and saluting the Hawks’ faithful that had turned one section of the grandstand into a sea of brown and gold. Saints skipper James Coatsworth battled bravely in the midfield, as did Dan Liriges in the ruck.
But Hawks, kick started by a long-range Glen Martin goal, went to the first break five goals up and managed to keep a two-goal buffer at the main break. Martin and his partner in crime Ehlich copped their share of abuse from the Saints supporters in the crowd, but they lapped it up as the Hawks pushed further ahead.
Griffiths said it was his team’s willingness to do the work that made the difference.
"All 22 are suffering. They are hurting, and I’m proud as punch," he said. "If you had said at the start of the season that we’d have two flags (seniors and reserves) I would have shaken my head and said steady on a bit."
Courtesy of The Cairns Post.