Queensland refused to concede the knockout blow and then almost delivered one of their own in their finest hour in the interstate arena, despite losing today. Read the full match report, match-ups, and scoreboard…
By Ron McDonald
photo by David Woodley/www.woodleyimages.com
Queensland produced arguably the greatest performance in its interstate history with a never-say-die six-point loss to Western Australia in the coastal city of Mandurah this afternoon.
Seemingly down and out on at least three occasions from as early as the second quarter, the Maroons mustered a remarkable final quarter surge to shock the red-hot favourites.
WA won the game 16.17 (113) to 16.11 (107) but the Maroons won all the respect for their eight-goal-to-two barnstorming finish.
Having never got closer to WA than 58 points in three attempts this decade and having never beaten the Black Swans in seven tries since 1914, the Maroons played at a level the equal of their opponents throughout the second half following an uncertain start.
Rover Dayne Zorko showed the AFL recruiting scouts at the game and the team in his home town on the Gold Coast just what he was capable of with a brilliant performance that was the equal of any of the West Australians.
Zorko won the hard ball, found it in space and capped his game with four goals, including three in the last quarter.
His fourth major at the 32-minute mark of the final term, a sensational long, bouncing goal from 65m sent the crowd of around 3000 at Bendigo Bank Stadium into stunned silence.
The siren sounded five seconds after the re-start, giving the Maroons no chance to launch one final charge.
It looked like being so different earlier.
Gold Coast Suns rookie Jake Crawford was a late withdrawal after injuring his shoulder in a simple collision at training on Friday night, with Reece Toye coming in for his State debut, meaning the Maroons had to restructure their planned defensive set-up.
WA’s speed and tackling pressure had the Maroons on the back foot early, although the defence applied enough pressure for the Black Swans to spray a number of shots.
Queensland kicked the first goal through Kent Abey six minutes into the game, but WA generated the next seven scoring shots, although it took them six behinds and 18 minutes before they registered their first goal.
Skipper Jason Salecic and the turbo-charged Ryan Brabazon were everywhere early, while centre-half-forward Brett Geappen was strong in the air.
Ruckman Niall McKeever was outstanding against former St Kilda big man Michael Rix early, winning the taps and around the ground.
Albert Proud was easily Queensland’s best midfielder, winning numerous possessions and tackling ferociously.
The wind favouring WA’s end blew strongly for the last 15 minutes of the quarter, making it difficult for the Maroons to attack, although Josh Vearing’s determination under a pack won a free kick in time-on to see the Maroons trail by just a point at quarter-time.
The worrying sign was that WA had generated nine scoring shots to three and that quickly blew out to 18 to six by midway through the term.
Former Eagle Ashley Hansen booted two goals in the opening two minutes of the second term, and WA had three in five minutes and seven in the first 18 minutes of the term.
They ran the ball in waves from half-back and big forwards Geappen, Hansen and Josh Smith proved a handful in the air, stretching the margin out to 42 points.
While Dayne Zorko started to win some ball and McKeever and Proud tried hard for the visitors, it appeared as though the floodgates were about to burst, particularly with the Queenslanders looking very reactive.
Danny Wise had held gamebreaker Ian Richardson superbly in the first term but the jack-in-the-back left-footer got away from the Maroons skipper on several occasions in the opening 15 minutes of the second term.
But clever left-footer Ryan Davey came strongly into the game, Zorko won some ball around the packs, and Nathan Gilliland injected himself on one wing and Queensland generated three unanswered goals in time-on to bring the margin back to 23 points at the long break.
Coach Jason Cotter started to alternate Chris Smith and Paul Shelton through full-forward rather than relying on the Abey-Darren Ewing combination and they were able to hold the ball in the attacking 50 for longer.
The Queenslanders looked far more composed and comfortable with the speed of the game in the third term.
The problem was that Smith, rotated deeper to full-forward, kicked four goals for the quarter including the last one on the siren. His aerial work was outstanding with the still slippery ball as the Maroons rotated all their tall defenders onto him.
The margin hovered around 30 points for much of the quarter before Smith’s double-strike appeared to put the game out of reach.
It came despite Wise suffocating Richardson, Zorko continuing to cause the Black Swans problems, Davey generating three shots at goal but for just the one major, and Iggy Vallejo offering a long leading target.
Cameron Ilett had won plenty of ball but was uncharacteristically ineffective on a number of occasions, although his first goal five minutes into the final term reduced the margin to 37 points.
It went back out to 44 points when Smith kicked his fifth goal at the eight-minute mark. He had kicked all five in a 33-minute period of the game which did enough to earn him the Simpson Medal as WA’s best player.
The last three clashes between the States saw WA run roughshed over the Queenslanders in the final quarter, but the reverse was about to unfold.
Zorko ran into overdrive, Payne and Davey got even busier, Kallen Geary won some important contests, and Scott Clouston got heavily involved as the back-up ruckman to McKeever.
Queensland kicked three goals in six minutes from the 15-minute mark to draw within four goals, the final goal in the sequence a booming 65 metre punt by Clouston that went through post high. But a fortuitous free kick to the home side when Zorko was streaking forward from the next centre bounce halted the momentum and Hansen eventually slotted his third at the other end.
The visitors refused to concede and four goals in the next six minutes had the West Australians on the ropes before time ran out.
Zorko was simply outstanding and won the Zane Taylor Medal, Davey was good enough to receive the guernsey presented by WA as Queensland’s best player, Wise’s job to hold Richardson to 0.1 and eventually provide rebound was super, McKeever was a revelation, and Proud and Payne were in the Maroons’ best.
Adam Spackman and Trent Manzone did some nice things in defence while Joel Tippett spoiled well and Gavin Grose battled manfully.
“Our guys were magnificent – they could have got run over by 10 goals but they fought it right out,” Cotter said. “I thought we had a good group all along and would challenge the West Australians.
“We probably paid for that middle of the game lapse where we let them bang on a few quick goals and get scoreboard ascendency.”
How they lined up:
B: Joel Tippett, Gavin Grose, Danny Wise
Kristin Thornton, Ashley Hansen, Ian Richardson
HB: Adam Spackman, Shaun Tapp, Caleb Brown
Ryan Brabazon, Josh Smith, Jason Salecic
C: Nathan Gilliland, Ryan Davey, Chris Smith
Tom Roach, Rory O’Brien, Kane Mitchell
HF: Dayne Zorko, Iggy Vallejo, Scott Clouston, Matthew Payne
Graham Jetta, Dion Fleay, Beau Wilkes, Steven Browne
F: Darren Ewing, Kent Abey
Tallan Ames, Beau Wilkes
R: Niall McKeever, Cameron Ilett, Albert Proud
Michael Rix, Rory O’Brien, Luke Blackwell
I/C: Kallen Geary, Josh Vearing, Paul Shelton, Reece Toye, Trent Manzone
West Aust, 1.8, 8.10, 14.14, 16.17 (113)
Queensland, 2.1, 5.5, 8.7, 16.11 (107)
Goals, WA: Smith 5.2; Hansen 3.0; Geappen 2.2; Brabazon 2.1; Thornton 2.0; Dell’Olio, O’Brien 1.0; Mitchell 0.4; Cook 0.2; Salecic, Richardson, Blackwell, Head 0.1; 3 points rushed.
Qld: Zorko 4.0; Davey 2.3; Payne 2.2; Clouston 2.0; Gilliland, Ilett 1.2; Abey, Shelton, Smith, Vearing 1.0; 2 points rushed.
Best, WA: Brabazon, Blackwell, Fleay, Smith, Geappen, Salecic.
Qld: Zorko, Davey, Wise, McKeever, Proud, Payne.
Umpires: Stuart Parry (WA), Chris Pattinson (WA), Andrew Stephens (Qld).
At Bendigo Bank Stadium, Mandurah.
Crowd: 3000 (approx.)