Cats mauled by South

CONTESTING THE BALL: Solomontown's Riley Bernhardt contests the ball during Saturday's clash with South at Port Oval.
CONTESTING THE BALL: Solomontown's Riley Bernhardt contests the ball during Saturday's clash with South at Port Oval.

In a brutal display of finals football the reigning premiers South have come up with their best display for the season and handed the Cats a real belting in a game that shocked the local crowd and has blown the premiership race wide open again!

The game started at a good pace and eyebrows were raised as South skipped away with the first two goals and signalled their intention to take it up to the runaway favourites. Order was quickly restored as the Cats answered and goals were traded until the Dogs went in two points up at the first break. The teams continued on pretty much even footing until Munzberg goaled mid way through the second quarter to bring the Cats to their biggest lead of the game that could have been more at 7.9 to 7.3.

From here though the Cats went to sleep and South went to work. Three late goals gave South a two-goal break and confidence heading to the big break and they went to work with the next seven in the first 18 minutes of the third to blow the hinges off the contest and lead 7.9 to 17.3 and it was over as a contest.

Downey was solid in the ruck and the lean Urbancic got on his bike across half forward and couldn’t be matched giving their runners plenty of movement and once they got a sniff, their momentum was powerful. The X Factor mentioned in the match preview, Clayton Milera, showed everyone his pure pedigree and footy class and was unstoppable and when coupled with Aziel Stuart and Gary Warren they set the Dogs alight! Madigan Medallist Kildea was good along with Ackland amongst others in a team that had no passengers. Those in the know at South had been saying that they thought they would be better when everyone was available and they showed it Saturday.

This loss was the one I thought the Cats may have had a few weeks earlier against South and there was little to gain from the wreckage except experience and motivation. Nick Redman continued his best year and gave all and other on ballers in Bearman and Davey got possessions and battled on but had their colours lowered for the day. Riley Bernhardt deserves a special mention, as he battled hard all day against the number one big man in the comp and only enhanced his standing in the competition and club as his game won the admiration of the crowd, coming off the toughest possible week.

If Sollies were playing soccer they would be half way through a week of celebration having won the League, but this is footy and they still have to do it in finals. South had a day out and didn’t miss their last 14 goals with no points and the Cats will take a small solace from the fact they had more scoring shots for the day. Solomontown played well all year and earned the double chance, now they have to use it and next week is another chance for a ticket to the grand final!

Prop Risdon belt West 

The Lions had only won by five goals at home last week and with Westies regaining four combined players in Tyrone Warren, Packard, Starkey Treloar and Nicol the game was set up for a close elimination battle. Blue and gold nerves would have been jangled further as Patterson was ruled out on Sunday.

It was never to be the case though as coach Dunkley had his side primed to go and flew out the blocks and were never headed. Lions had four on the board before West got their first and still trailed by 27 at quarter time and the second went the same way with another four goals to two. In a master stroke from the Lions hierarchy the recent moves to put combined full back Trav Ley forward over recent weeks paid dividends this week with six of the nine to half time and nine for the day putting Westies to the sword off his own boot.

Lions runners found plenty of room in the extra width of Port Augusta’s Central Oval with Recorder medallist Fuller and Westley in particular cutting West up. Oliphant was moved further down the ground and found plenty of it for one of his best games and Marsland found very little opposition coming the other way for most contests he went for.

For Westies Curley was one of few that continued to battle along with Packard and Singleton but in honesty the steam was let out the game early and as can happen when a team realises their season is done, the pressure and tackling was light when they didn’t have the ball.  

Lions played well and have hit their stride at the last time of the year. They live to fight another day and fight they must as they face a huge cross town rivalry to get a shot at the title.

Solomontown v Prop Risdon preview

All roads lead to Port Oval this Saturday for what promises to be an absolute beauty. In many seasons the preliminary final quite often is the pick of the games as teams go all out to keep their season alive and get their ticket to the grand final. Another prelim factor is that one team enters the game off a win and the other off a loss. Will that make a difference, not sure but there will be plenty of nervous fans entering the ground come Saturday.

Sollies will be smarting from putting in their worst performance for the year in their first final and will be aching for a shot at revenge next week. The danger is if they don’t refocus on Lions that chance will not come. The McIntyres were held last week and some of the younger Cats struggled with the upped ante of finals football last week but will be better for the run. Their defence was chopped up for the first time all year giving up 21 goals and that won’t be happening again. They need the run from half back and will be wanting the level heads of Mudge and Siemer to hold the backs steady and build the rebound football that has given them so much success this year. Redman will once again need to put it all on the line and I am sure Davey, Hayes and Bearman will lead the Caputos, Francis and Knibbs to better games this week.

Lions will start as underdogs and will need it all to go right. A key will be scoring so will look for born again forward Trav Ley to ignite them along with Bradley and the menacing Marsland. Lions have plenty of run of their own to match the Cats with the Westley, Edwards boys, the returning Patterson all adding to the youngsters in Oliphant and Brown providing plenty all over the ground. Art Lane will need to be working hard to break even in the rucks and then work hard when it hits the ground.

Swing man Tom Harmer is back and will be pose questions for the Cats along with the defence of the Lions led by Eckert and Eyre. Their trump card though remains Fuller and with his blistering pace and sublime skill adding to his power in the air he is such a difficult match up if he turns it on. It should be a belter, both coaches are experienced and tasted the ultimate success, the Lions have hit form and the Cats have dipped, one gets a shot at the grand final and one packs up for the year, it’s all on the line! My tip is the Cats will recover their composure. Sollies by 25 points.

Just a thought

A lot of teams, especially those struggling, look to injuries as a crutch to lean on for reasons so it’s always interesting come season’s end to have a look at some stats. The team that used the highest number of players was easily Central on 49, not surprisingly followed by Port on 41 then close by was South and West on 40 then Prop Risdon on 32 and table topper Solomontown being the most settled side on 30. Now Sollies, understandably, had more play all 17 minor round games with nine players fronting up every week. Then came Lions six, West six, Port five, South surprising with only three and incredibly Central did not have one player play every game! As the saying goes though, stats are sometimes used like a drunk uses a lamppost, more for support than illumination as Lions for example look to be quite settled and lacking injuries. My guess from a distance though, is with their reserves and 18s lacking the overall depth of other teams it limited their spread of options at the selection table. Also Centrals poor start quickly led them to decide to use the year for development and incredibly used 19 players from their 18s in A grade. Last week my tips got five from eight with the three games I missed on were all three Sollies were involved in! Five of the eight games followed the table settings with South A grade, Central B grade and Port 18s the only three teams to beat sides higher on the table than them. This week only four so I will tip Port to beat West in the 15s, Central to beat Sollies in the 18s, Central with no A grade in the finals to beat Sollies in a cliff-hanger in the B grade and Sollies to win through to the main game!