A TOP-three finish is now well within reach of Gold Coast powers Palm Beach-Currumbin after a clinical demolition of reigning premiers Noosa at Salk Oval on Saturday.
By Terry Wilson
PBC took the battle of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts by a convincing 16.13 (109) to 11.10 (76) with a performance that had finals participation – and definitely grand final potential – written all over it.
On the back of a superb forward display from Lee Clark, the Lions roared early and put the Tigers in their place with first and second quarters of 6.3, which gave them a 32-point buffer at half-time.
They stretched their lead to 40 points at three-quarter time before the game fell away sharply as a spectacle when rival coaches Craig O’Brien (PBC) and Wayne Fletcher went defensive and only one goal was registered in the final stanza.
Still, it was a sweet victory for the Lions, who remain fifth on the ladder on 20 points but more importantly they are now only one win behind Noosa and two behind third-placed Wilston-Grange.
A look at what lies ahead for Palm Beach over the remaining seven rounds shows just why the Lions are firming rapidly in the market for a vital finals double-chance.
In the run to the finals the Lions play Maroochy-Northshore twice, Burleigh, Springwood, Surfers Paradise and Sandgate. They have a bye in round 12.
That adds up to five very winnable games – the Sandgate clash is away – so it is little wonder that confidence of grabbing a double chance is high at the club.
“Lose one and I still think we’re a chance for the top three,” said O’Brien.
“That’s how important the game on Saturday was for us.”
The Lions hit the ground running and stitched up the four points early.
“We set it up in the first half,” said O’Brien. “They came at us a couple of times but we held them out and then kicked away.”
It was a strange finish to the clash to see just the one goal kicked for the fourth quarter – by Noosa – but O’Brien said he dropped a loose man behind the ball in response to a similar tactic from the visitors.
“I was surprised Noosa did that because they had to win the game,” he said.
“I didn’t worry about it when I knew it was happening, so I put Drakey (James Drake) behind the ball as well. It was then kind of kick-to-kick from the half-back lines.”
The lack-lustre finale to the game, however, could not overshadow the first half fireworks from PBC’s gun recruit Lee Clark, who booted all of his eight goals before the big break.
O’Brien changed his attacking structure after that, believing the Lions were becoming too Clark-conscious as Noosa worked on ways to cut supply to the spearhead.
Clark was outstanding for the winners, but at the other end of the ground rugged Damien Lyon did a good job on Noosa forward Danny Brewster, the competition’s leading goalkicker who was held to just two on the day.
Back pocket and co-captain Angus Munro was again solid in defence and speedster Arnold Knight gave the Lions plenty of run from a half-back flank.
Noosa may have been victims of the spate of bad weather because, on a firm Salk Oval surface, they floundered coping with the extra bounce of the ball.
Coach Fletcher said the combination of firm ground, with the extra pace and pressure of the game, worked against the Tigers.
“We had as much of the footy as they did, but we didn’t use it as well,” he said.
They cert put an extra man back. We had trouble finding targets because our delivery was pretty average.
“Their defence was solid and they got good rebound from there and all their good players were up and about.
As for us, the endeavour was good but execution was questionable.”
Fletcher said Tom McKittrick, on the ball, was one Noosa player who won plenty of possession and found his targets.
Regular ball magnets Lucas Matthews and Caleb Isles were also good, but plenty of possession translated into too many turnovers – which was a general failing of too many Tigers on the day.
Ruckman Peter Trompf, in just his second match back from a hand injury, worked manfully for the Tigers.