Manunda eyeing off the big prize

EVEN a slightly off performance could not take the gleam off Manunda's golden month, the reigning champions now considered a legitimate chance to defend their AFL Cairns title.

The Hawks were not at their best but still managed to overpower Souths at Cazalys, eventually winning 20.10 (130) to 12.16 (88).

It was their fifth-straight win and keeps them level on points in second spot with North Cairns, who incidentally annihilated Centrals Trinity at Watsons Oval across town.

Hawks player-coach Clinton Gribble reckons they can now beat any team on their day, and with the addition of recruited small forward Tim Churchin, from Melbourne, have a bevy of goal-scoring options to fall back on.

Churchin kicked four for the second time in his two-game stint with Hawks, while the team also had 10 other goalkickers.

"We were pretty patchy, but I think our standards are so high after the good month we've had," Gribble said.

"While we weren't at our best, we managed to kick goals at the death of each quarter, which was probably the most pleasing thing."

That trait helped them kick out to a 33-point quarter-time lead, which was gradually extended at every break.

The Hawks are now hunting down outright second spot.

"It's pretty even now – last time we played Norths, we matched up really well and it may come down to that game between us to decide second," Gribble said.

"We've got to show every team respect, but if we play our best we can beat anyone.

"It'll take something shocking to knock the confidence out of us."

Saints co-coach Brenton Powell agreed that Manunda were the most-improved unit in the competition.

He was on representative duties when they beat his side two weeks ago, and is keen to see first-hand exactly where the Hawks have improved.

"I need to look at some tapes, but I know their midfield is definitely stronger and they are certainly playing confidently at the moment," he said.

"I wouldn't say us losing to them was a good thing, but it makes us realise that it's going to be a real challenge."

North Cairns should not be discounted from the scenario either, with yet another bolter racking up a giant haul.

Usually parked in defence, Chris Jorgensen was thrust forward and finished the day with 12 majors to his name.

Such has been their depth in front of goal, no Tigers player features in the competition's top five goalkickers despite them scoring almost 1700 points this season.


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