High-flying Hawks too hot for Bulldogs
A monster haul from Tim Churchin and a well-executed shut down role from Nathan Freebody saw Manunda get back to their best form and breeze past the on-song Bulldogs on Saturday.
The Hawks turned in perhaps their best performance of the season in the 25.16 (166) to 10.12 (72) win, reinvigorating their top-four hopes against a side that had also caught the scent of finals footy.
While the job is now tougher for Centals, Manunda are much more confident heading into a bye this weekend.
It was Churchin's five-star effort from the forward pocket that got the Hawks ahead early at Cazalys and ensured they kept motoring along for all four quarters.
Churchin and forward pocket partner Fred Pittorino (two goals) were the benefactors of big man Richard Curries's work at full forward.
The relatively new addition to the side is the perfect foil to the smaller pair and together they clicked, easily eclipsing their previous biggest score this season of 115.
Meanwhile Nathan Freebody was assigned the task of tagging Bulldogs linchpin Clint Guy, who has been the key to the Dogs' fortunes this season.
One of his team's best six in 11 of his 16 games in 2013, Guy was negated by the now Brisbane-based midfielder in a performance that pleased player-coach Clinton Gribble.
"I'm a happy coach," he smiled. "Nathan came back in, he's been playing UQ down in Brisbane, and kept Clint quiet. He sets their play up so we were always trying to take him out of the game."
"It's the first time we've really played well the entire game and played the type of footy we've wanted to."
Manunda's Flint brothers Ryan, Corey and Jarryd all played together in the seniors for the first time and immediately looked the part.
Jake Roach fresh off helping Queensland's under-23 indoor cricket side to a national title, has also been in good form in the ruck.
Gribble said there were shades of the Manunda side that won a premiership two years ago and reached the decider last year in their play.
"Our forward entry was the best it's been, and I know Timmy likes that," the coach said.
The victory puts them back in front of Centrals, but still behind fourth-placed Souths on points difference.
Souths host Manunda in the final round of the season and if results go according to script in the next two weeks, it could be a battle for fourth spot.
"It's probably going to come down to that," Gribble said.
"It'll be a cracking game."
Manunda have the bye this weekend, before playing North Cairns then finishing the regular season against the Cutters.
"Norths will be a tough game, but we can be confident after how we went against them last time and know that if we are physical we can dictate play," Gribble said.