Storky's Midweek Footy Talk - Grand Final
GRAHAM "STORKY" CAMPBELL
We had a great couple of games of footy in Bluff on the weekend for the Preliminary Finals in the Purcell’s Engineering Central Highlands competition.
The day started with the Emerald Tigers Ladies taking on the Blackwater Crushettes and the scoring started before you even had a chance to take your seat!
After a minute of play, the Tigers’ Kelsie Parter received the ball and scooted away for a 40 metre try to draw first blood. It was a good passage of play and lot of good work by her.
Both teams were trying to muscle their way forward with Stacey Kirkman and Cloe Rasmay leading the charge for the Tigers. Kirkman was particularly damaging in defence for the Tigers with some pretty solid hits.
Blackwater’s Mariah Storch was in everything trying to get her team attacking but silly mistakes didn’t help them, nor did it help the Tigers.
After eight minutes, Casey Watkins received the ball and did a lot of work over 45 metres dodging, weaving and stepping to score a try.
Straight after the restart, Tamera Hunter scored a 60 metre try for the Tigers after receving a great draw and pass enabling her to find space, taking full advantage of it.
The score was only 12-nil after all three conversions were missed.
Tashia Anthony was having a good game for the Crushettes running the ball up making plenty of metres and her defence was impeccable against the attack of the Tigers. Lauren Pingel was also taking the ball up into the Tigers and making ground but nothing was coming off for the Crushettes.
From the scrum 40 metres out, Bonnie Walsh threw a well-executed dummy and scooted away to score under the sticks for the Tigers’ fourth try. Captain Maria Rawiri converted with not long to go in the first half. She was having a good game keeping the team organised.
At half-time, the Tigers led 18-nil. Could the Crushettes come back?
Karleigh Banks and Maddie Richard were having a great second rowers game for the Crushettes and ten minutes into the second half, Blackwater’s lock, Nadine Hattingh, scored from a back line movement. This try was converted by Mariah Storch to bridge the gap to only 12 points.
The Crushettes were on a roll and five minutes later, Olivia Hamilton saw the gap and took off to score a try near the posts. The score line was looking better for the Crushettes now only trailing by six points.
Ruby and Hannah Battes-Ormond were valuable when they got on the field and made plenty of metres for the Tigers.
Ngaire Linde, who always has a good game for the Tigers, wanted to book herself a home Grand Final and scored after a backline movement for Tigers to extend the lead to 24-12.
Sam Evans scored for the Crushettes near the end of the game but it was too little, too late for Blackwater and the Tigers advanced through to their third consecutive Grand Final defeating the Crushettes 24-16.
Stacey Kirkman had a good game for the Tigers as did Mariah Storch was for the Crushettes.
The Tigers took the lead and were too dominant. The Crushers had ball handling issues in the first half and the first half led was too great that they just couldn’t come back.
Good luck to the Tiger Ladies who tackle the Clermont Bears Ladies in the Grand Final. It’s the third consecutive time these two teams have met each other in the Final with both teams winning the premiership once.
I wonder who will lift the trophy on Saturday night?
The Middlemount Panthers came out on Saturday night ready to upset last year’s premiers.
I reckon it was one of the coldest nights for footy in the Central Highlands, even beating Springsure and Clermont, but that didn’t phase the Panthers.
After three minutes, the Panthers were in to score first off the back off the scrum. It was a nice set play from the Panthers with the ball going through the backline for fullback Ryan Hansell to score near the posts.
After missing most of the year due to injury, he is needed for the finals series and made his presence known with a lot of energy from the fullback position. The initial diagnsos for Hansell was that he was out for the season, so to see him back playing for the Panthers for the finals is courage. Well done Ryan!
Mitch Wyatte packed his kicking boots for the occasion and converted the try for the Panthers to lead early in the game 6-nil.
The play went backwards and forwards with both sides trying to dominate and front rowers Brendan Hoskin and Joe Taotofi made their presence known with their hit ups and tackles.
Alex Sainsbury continued his good form attacking the ball and making plenty of ground but the strong man in the middle of the back row, Josh Rovelli, kept the team going playing all game.
Halfback Joel Duffy was having a great game and as the main play maker for his team as it appeared Mitch Wyatte was struggling a little bit with his groin injury.
Duffy passed a long ball to Troy Rogers who scored for Mitch Wyatte to convert to see Middlemount lead 12-nil after 24 minutes.
Bluff’s Chris Conway was trying everything to get his team points as were Billy Byrne and Josh Merlow up front. Matty Charles had a big game for the Rabbits and continued to batter the Panthers’ defence.
The Panthers were given a penalty in front of the sticks and they took the two points as it was close to half time.
The play of the day though went to Mitch Wyatte at half time…from 42 metres out, he slotted a field goal on the bell to give his side a 19-nil lead at half time.
After half time, the Rabbitiohs came out firing and saw Chris McKay score after running wide and straightening to score his first try of the game.
Both sides kept attacking but the Panthers kept their noses in front and every minute the tension level in the Rabbits got higher.
Jason Randell was taken off with an injury early in the match. Michael Baker played well in the dummy-half role and I’m sure he wasn’t expecting to play in that role for a majority of the match.
Steve Henderson toughed it out again and was always on the ball. Centres Sam Creedon and Michael Morrissey were stopping the Bluff outside backs in Chris McKay and Paul Oth.
Oth used himself as a battering ram trying to score a try.
Sam Creedon went over to score in the 20th Minute for the Panthers to lead 23-4 but Ari Hannah soon closed the gap for Bluff scoring and converting to see the Panthers till lead 23-10.
Bluff went in to score another try right on full time through Jack Laxton. At 19 years of age, he has had a good year on the field and is certainly going to be a player to watch out for in future years.
The final score was 23-16 to the Panthers.
It was a hard fought battle but the Panthers were too good on the night.
They now go on to tackle the Emerald Tigers in the Grand Final in Emerald on Saturday.
The last time the Panthers won a premiership was in 2010 and the last time the Tigers won it was in 2008 so it will be interesting to see who lifts the trophy come Saturday night.
On Friday, I will have a full preview of the 2016 Grand Final so be sure to check the Central Highlands Rugby League Facebook page on Friday for more.