By Cameron Smith, neafl.com.au
2018 Tribal Sport NEAFL Final Series
PRELIMINARY FINAL 1
Saturday, September 8, 2018
Southport Sharks v Aspley Hornets at Fankhauser Reserve, 1.30pm
*This match will be streamed live on NEAFL TV (youtube.com/northeastafl)
*Live Champion Data statistics available on the Official NEAFL App
Southport is back playing finals footy after a two-year hiatus, hosting the Aspley Hornets in an epic battle of the M1 in a Preliminary Final showdown this weekend. The Sharks, under their new coach and this year’s Coach of the Year – Stephen Daniel, have transformed from a ninth-place side to the minor premiers in just one year and they are only one step away from a maiden Grand Final berth.
In their way though, is John Blair’s men who are in some formidable form; winning their last seven games. The Hornets put away the Lions in a ruthless matter last week, booting 10 goals to two in the second half in front of a huge home crowd at Graham Road. Southport will be relieved the game is at Fankhauser Reserve; hosting their first final at the venue since 2013.
*Full teams will be announced Friday morning.
Round 19, 2018: Aspley 11.13 (79) d Southport 8.8 (56) at Graham Road
Round 15, 2018: Aspley 11.11 (77) d Southport 9.18 (72) at Graham Road
Round 3, 2018: Southport 13.23 (101) d Aspley 7.7 (49) at Fankhauser Reserve
1. Southport have had an excellent year, but they have suffered a few chinks in their armour over the season. The two recent losses against Aspley were disappointing, but it might be precisely what Southport needed to ensure they win this weekend, especially considering they have had two weeks to prepare.
2. Last week was the first time this season Aspley scored over 100 points in a game against a side other than Redland and NT Thunder. Southport, on the other hand, has only won twice when they have not scored 100 points, and have won every time they have scored over 100 points.
3. Reece Toye is exceptionally under-rated, but he is a crucial cog in Aspley’s midfield behind the juggernauts of the competition – Matt Payne and Andrew Swallow. Toye, who plays his 150th game in the NEAFL this weekend, was named in Aspley’s best in both wins that Aspley has had over Southport this season; averaging 25 disposals in the two games and will play an important role again this week.
Finals can bring out the best or worst in a player, and for Aspley youngster Jasper Craven, it was definitely the former last week against Brisbane. With 14 disposals and a goal, 21-year-old Craven held his own against a Lions side with 16 AFL-listed players, to be named among Aspley’s best players on the day. Another big test awaits for the young gun this week against another hard-bodied side in Southport.
STATS THAT MATTER
Aspley are the only team of the four sides still in the finals to have beaten all of the other three sides throughout the year.
Southport by 10 points.