GRAND FINAL PREVIEW
Friday 18 September 2009
MORNINGSIDE v MT GRAVATT
Sunday 20 September 2009, Giffin Park - 2.15pm
Morningside’s turbo-charged midfield brigade will have to be completely shut down if rank underdogs Mt Gravatt are to spring an upset in Sunday’s Velocity Sports Cup grand final.
The Panthers’ elite band of runners have carried the team to 17 consecutive wins, including a 12-goal demolition of Southport in the second semi-final.
Mt Gravatt won’t carry the same emotional baggage as what Southport might have had they graduated to the biggest game of the year, and in fact the Vultures take heart from the fact they were the last team to beat Morningside way back in Round 2.
At that stage of the year the Panthers were still adjusting to a revised game plan and some new faces in their side, a combination that has proved deadly once it clicked.
State skipper David Lillico has not received the same plaudits as in recent seasons because of the quality around him, yet his year as been as good as any that he has played in the red, black and white, and set the standard early in the second semi-final.
The addition of Paul Shelton has taken an enormous load of Lillico’s shoulders, and the man known as ‘Nugget’ has been more like gold for the Panthers with his ball-winning ability and constructive play.
Former Canberra livewire Mark Kimball has been a sensation over the last month of the season and his explosive acceleration and clever use of the ball means he only needs to get it 15 times and he will kill you.
Tough ruck-rover Mark Rootsey is arguably the most improved player in the competition this year and has taken his game to the top shelf, winning plenty of possession and being a major threat around goal.
With the ever-reliable Tyson Upton, red-hot left-footer Ryan Holman and exuberant Sam Faure, the Panthers have an arsenal of weapons that is the envy of the competition in 2009.
It means a huge job awaits the likes of Aiden Pratt, Mick Hamill, Nathan Gilliland, Rory Lake and Daniel Savage, who were beaten for three quarters last week but responded with a never-say-die last quarter.
While Vultures ruckman Ryan Head took some telling marks in defence in the second half last week, Broc McCauley jumped all over him at the bounces and Morningside champion Jacob Gough poses a similar threat on Sunday.
Southport’s quick transition and speedy forwards made the Mt Gravatt defence look cumbersome for three quarters last week and finals specialist Sam Brown will be a dangerman to the Vultures.
Panthers key forward Kent Abey is overdue for a big game and Shaun Mugavin’s strength in the goalsquare offers a reliable target, while half-forward Austin Lucy’s running capacity will challenge his opponents.
Mt Gravatt set up most of their attack through the run of defenders Josh Vearing and Sam Carins, and the Vultures will try and free them up as much as possible.
At the other end of the ground, Shane Morrison has presented a reliable marking target all finals series for Mt Gravatt and he will again have to be at his peak against the ever-present Brett Connell if the Vultures are to have a chance.
Mt Gravatt have won five of the last seven battles between the two sides, but the Panthers pounded the Vultures by 69 points in their last clash in Round 12 where they blasted 5.2 to 0.0 in the opening 24 minutes in a similar start to their second semi-final demolition of Southport.
Round 12, 2009: Morningside 22.11 (143) d Mt Gravatt 11.3 (69) at Esplen Oval
Round 2, 2009: Mt Gravatt 19.10 (124) d Morningside 12.14 (86) at Dittmer Park
Rd PF, 2008: Morningside 10.16 (76) d Mt Gravatt 10.9 (69) at Giffin Park
Rd 10, 2008: Mt Gravatt 19.10 (124) d Morningside 13.10 (88) at Dittmer Park
Rd 2, 2008: Mt Gravatt 13.13 (91) d Morningside 12.7 (79) at Esplen Oval