Sunday 12 September 2010

Morningside coach John Blair was always confident his side would hold off Southport’s charge in today’s preliminary final thriller.

The Panthers were having a strong sense of déjà vu when the Sharks came storming home. Just seven days earlier Morningside had let slip a 23-point lead in the wet to hand Labrador an automatic grand final berth and a week’s rest.

But Blair was not fazed.

“We’d discussed it and worked on it during the week and we knew what we had to do in that situation,” Blair said.

“The last five minutes I was more relaxed or confident than early in the game when we were missing shots in the first and third quarters in particular.”

Morningside had full control of the game and could have iced it when Jack Lawler grabbed the ball of his toes from a pack at full tilt and sped goalwards in the opening minute of the final term, only to miss.

The Panthers kept attacking for the opening 10 minutes of the final quarter, before Southport stormed into contention with four straight goals in 14 minutes.

“They were brave. They were very good – you’d expect them to,” Blair said of arch rivals Southport.

“They’ve invested a lot of time, money and effort like every other footy club – probably more of some of those things than the rest of us have. To their credit, they’re well drilled.”

Morningside had plenty of heroes, including Jarrod Price, who almost completely nullified Ray Hughson Medallist Cleve Hughes’ impact.

“I think he’d had one kick til then (early in the last quarter) so Pricey did a great job,” Blair said. “His teammates really worked hard putting pressure on the kickers and guys bringing the ball in, so it made it a little easier. But Pricey was great.”

Blair admitted his halftime address including getting Ryan Holman to lock onto Matthew Payne, who was best afield to that point.

“Certainly Ryan Holman went there and did a very good job. He not only got footy but was able to limit Payney’s effectiveness from the clearances,” Blair said.

He was also impressed with gun ruck-rover Damien Bonney’s ability to absorb a strong tag in the form of David Lynch and do some critical things for his side, without losing his cool.

“For the super-hard tag that he had – with no protection – I thought he was sensational with some of his really heavy clearances and really strong defensive work he did in there as well,” Blair said.

Importantly, champion ruckman Jacob Gough looked less inhibited by his ribs this week and was a key player in the third term surge.

“He was a lot freer today, he’s back up and going,” Blair said of the co-captain. “(Tom) Hickey was good as a support player and played his role too, so that was good as well.”

After three tough finals against Southport-Labrador-Southport, including two fourth quarter nailbiters, the Panthers will have a light week of training leading into the grand final.

“You’re not going to get any fitter, you can only get healthier,” Blair said.” We’ll get the bodies up as healthy as we can get them. We won’t overtrain, we’ll be pretty smart with how we do it.”

Our Supporters