ANOTHER shot at a premiership flag remains in the sights of last season’s beaten grand finalists Sandgate after the Hawks took a riveting elimination final against Wilston-Grange at Lemke Road Oval on Saturday.
Sandgate snaffled the north Brisbane derby by 15.5 (95) to 13.12 (90) to advance to an away first semi-final next weekend against either Western Magpies or Palm Beach-Currumbin.

By Terry Wilson

Sandgate snaffled the north Brisbane derby by 15.5 (95) to 13.12 (90) to advance to an away first semi-final next weekend against either Western Magpies or Palm Beach-Currumbin.
But it could so easily have been the Grange who made it further because, in a nutshell, they lost Saturday’s clash more so than Sandgate won it.
As the final scoreboard suggests, the Grange had more of the play. They ended with 25 scoring shots to the 20 by the extremely frugal Hawks.
It was that lack of conversion that cost the Gorillas dearly.
After an entertaining match that see-sawed throughout, Grange coach David Martin said the inability to convert scoring chances had been a worry for more than a month.
“It’s been there for the past six weeks or so – and it has cost us in the end,” he said.
“I think in the third quarter we had that many entries (into the 50m zone) when we didn’t even come up with a shot on goal.
“But the boys were terrific. They applied the pressure and we had most of the footy.
“They did everything you need to do in a final – except for hurting the opposition on the scoreboard.
“I think we beat them everywhere but on the scoreboard, so it’s a disappointing way to go out.”
It hurt the Grange to lose former State defender Matt Pardew, who was sent off and reported for striking Hawk on-baller David Scott mid-way through the second term.
That meant the Gorillas played the remainder of the quarter with 17 players, unable to replace Pardew for 15 minutes.
What the send-off did was to rob the match of a ‘ripper of a contest between two strong boys’ – in Martin’s words – between Pardew and Sandgate’s ageless champion Danny Dickfos.
For the record, Pardew later accepted a one-match suspension for the strike on Scott.
Still, winners are grinners and it was Sandgate captain-coach Ben Long who masterminded the elimination of the team coached by his former Northern Eagles mentor and close friend.
Long said Martin’s match sum-up was pretty much on the mark.
“They had plenty of chances to take the game away from us,” said Long. “They had five more scoring shots and five of them were very gettable.
“So, yes, they had their chances to put us away.
“You are always thankful (when the opposition butchers so many scoring chances), but this was one of those games when, if they had kicked those goals, you can’t say we would not have found ways to get them back. That was the trend of the day.”
There was rarely more than two goals between the sides through the match. The Grange led by eight points at quarter-time and by 10 points before trailing by seven at three-quarter time.
Sandgate came up trumps when they risked star defender Aaron Fabian, who was a late inclusion on Friday night only four weeks after sustaining a badly broken arm.
Fabian was not named in the Hawks’ match 22, although Long explained it was only after last year’s best and fairest winner made it through a training session with the club’s under-18s on Friday night that the Hawks elected to run with him.
“He had his cast cut off on Thursday afternoon and he had not trained for four weeks until Thursday night,” said Long.
“He was a bit ginger afterwards, so he had a session with the under-18s the next night and got through.”
Fabian started in a forward pocket, but had stints in the middle and finished the game down back where he provided significant run.
“We’re very happy to have him back at this time of the year,” said Long.
Hawk on-ballers Ben Drew and Scott were bright lights around the packs, while back pocket Damien Garton and centre half-back Michael McCoy, who defused the input of key Gorilla forward Dan Collins, also stood out.
A downside for Sandgate was the loss of stylish forward Josh Walker, who looks like he has ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament in a knee for the fourth time.
“It’s either that or a broken leg,” said Long. “We won’t know until he has scans, but either way his season is over, maybe even his career, which is sad for him.”
Wilston-Grange had former player-coach Michael Long as their best. According to coach Martin, Rogers had ‘a thousand’ possessions, not bad for a 34-year-old who remained in the midfield for the entire game,
Defender Scott Wood, ruckman James McMahon, Rohan Cash (who shut down Matt Nuss) and lean wingman Josh Ubank were others who did not let the Gorillas down.
It now remains to be seen whether the Gorillas run with Martin as coach again in 2012.
Martin certainly wants the job and believes the club has improved significantly but still with plenty of work to do.
“I took on the job knowing little about the joint,” he said. “Everything was new to me, so it was interesting to see how the club works.
“I reckon there has been improvement in all areas, but there is still room for more growth.
“We made the finals for the first time in a while, we never got flogged and we never gave up at any stage of the year.
“At the start of the season we wanted to get some respect for Wilston-Grange. I think we did that.
“So I’d like to go on next year because I don’t think we’ll lose too many players.”
Ben Long had the final word on Saturday’s event, taking little delight in beating Martin, the man who ended his first-grade career back in their Northern Eagles days.
Asked if it meant something special to beat Martin, Long replied: “Not really, it’s probably the opposite because I like to see the north Brisbane teams do well.
“So I would much rather have preferred in beating them by five points in a grand final.”

THE red, white and blue colours will not be seen in any more of the Pineapple Hotel Cup finals after Wilston-Grange lost the reserve grade elimination final against Surfers Paradise at Lemke Road Oval on Saturday.
Surfers took the sudden-death clash by a convincing 15.7 (97) to 5.12 (42), setting up a16-point lead at quarter-time, then keeping the Gorillas to just two points in the second term when they put on 3.2 in blustery conditions.
Experienced ruckman Jon Stephens, a regular senior until this year, kicked four goals for the Demons, a haul matched by Rhys Nossiter.
Two other former regular seniors – Josh Norton and Mark Thompson – were named best for Surfers, along with Mitch Ryan and Chris Kranz.
For the Gorillas, Mitchell Howe, Ryan Pope (a former Surfers junior), Scott Dalton and Simon Brown were best.

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