Hawks' win sets up grand final rematch
An inspired third quarter helped Manunda pip North Cairns in an intense AFL Cairns preliminary final on Saturday. The 18.11 (119) to 13.11 (89) defeat means a replay of last year's decider between the Hawks and minor premiers Cairns Saints. A typical Cazalys breeze meant the first half was topsy-turvy, but the Hawks bucked that trend to kick five goals-to-two in the third quarter against the wind. Norths started well and their forwards were able to supply plenty of opportunities to small forwards Isaac Rokeby (four goals) and Aaron Guligo (one). But their transition broke down in the third term and Manunda, led by Glen Martin in the back and Lincoln Withers in the midfield, were able to pile the pressure on. Young tall forward Michael D'arcy was a surprising strong presence in the goal square and it was his third goal that gave the Hawks their first lead. Some clever play down the right flank between Fred Pittorino and 17-year-old Trent Freebody led to another young Hawk Harry Hutchinson grubbering another major to continue their golden run. When Melbourne surburban recruit Tim Churchin goaled from a set shot - one that Nathan Bradbury should have kicked before he mysteriously left the field with a supposed injury - they had kicked four straight into the breeze. It took Norths 20 minutes to put a major on the board despite their wind advantage, but by then the damage was done. The Tigers did rally, kicking four goals to two in the final term, but the game was all but won when in-form midfielder Phil Dreise nailed a punt from the right pocket to open the final quarter. Manunda, who upset Saints in last year's grand final, acknowledge that they are up against it but can't wait for the challenge to topple the side that have lost just one game in 19 this season. "We just have to go hard and try and take them down," coach Clint Gribble said. "We deserve to be underdogs, but we have to go in with that attitude." Norths were unlucky in that two set shots hit the post, but they had themselves to blame with poor discipline and below-par skills.