Palm Beach will play for a fourth consecutive grand final berth, after defeating Labrador 14.12 (96) – 12.9 (81) at Salk Oval today.
In a match that pitted Labrador’s bigger bodied side against the damaging run of Palm Beach, it was the Tigers who started out in front, but the Lions showed their character to respond to each challenge.
Both sides took advantage of the strong breeze when they could, but it was their ability to score against that wind that was ultimately the difference, Labrador coach, Steve Daniel, said.
“The biggest thing for us was it’s not what you do with the wind, it’s what you do into it,” he said.
“We only kicked three goals into it and they kicked five.”
Five unanswered Labrador goals to finish the third term, laid the gauntlet down to Palm Beach and the home side responded with the first three goals of the final term, setting up their win.
Lions coach, Daryn Cresswell said the lapse was concerning, but the win showed his team’s character.
“We played safe early, chipping the ball around and they were able to stop us in our tracks,” he said.
“We spoke about getting numbers around the contest and that run and link (style of play) and once we did that, we opened them up.
“I was disappointed they kicked them so quickly and the boys went into their shell a bit.
“To respond the way they did in the last shows a lot of desire and character in the group.”
Palm Beach defender, Jackson Emblem, came into his own in the second half, taking plenty of defensive marks and spoiling even more Labrador chances.
“We always speak about it. Elite players play well in big games,” Cresswell said.
“He (Emblem) was superb and chopped off many of their attacks.”
Todd Bryant battled hard in the midfield, gathering a lot of the footy, while Brock Askey looked refreshed after a week off, kicking three goals, and Matt Dillon provided a strong option at centre half-forward, despite going goalless.
“(Dillon) didn’t win a whole lot of the ball, but he lead hard, gave us a target throughout and his pressure around the contest was superb,” Cresswell said.
While those players stood up, one of the bigger positives for the Lions was that they did it without relying on some of their usual contributors like Jesse Derrick and James Carr, who were relatively quiet.
Simon Seddon was busy for the Tigers all day, while Adam Baird worked hard on the wing and Kurt Niklaus was tireless in the backline.
Matt Daniel had three goals for Labrador in one of his best performances since returning from a shoulder injury.
On their grand final qualifier against Morningside next weekend, Cresswell kept it pretty simple.
“After 120 minutes we’ll be playing in a grand final or a preliminary,” he said.
“We know which way we want to go.”
Labrador faces the winner of tomorrow’s elimination final between Broadbeach and Mt Gravatt, in a knockout semi next weekend.
See how the match unfolded here.
Listen to our interview with Brock Askey here.