By Terry Wilson
Reigning champions Palm Beach Currumbin will be going for three successive QAFL premierships after downing Gold Coast rivals Surfers Paradise in a tremendous second semi-final on Saturday.
The Lions prevailed in the big local derby, repelling a third-quarter surge from the visitors, before registering victory by 11.12 (78) to 8.8 (56).
The victory ensured the Lions now get a chance to create club history – to win a hat-trick of flags in what will be their 29th grand final appearance since the formation of the club in 1961.
The Lions are straight into the grand final, at Metricon Stadium as they await to see who their rivals will be.
Saturday’s final margin was 22 points but the thoroughly absorbing contest, nice and hard and typical fare that finals footy can offer, belittled that deficit. It was much closer than that.
As PBC coach Jess Sinclair admitted afterwards, there was an occasion or two when he slipped into spectator mode.
“Sometimes you actually get caught up watching it and becoming a spectator, that’s good it was,” he said.
“It could have gone either way half-way through the third quarter when they were on top of us.”
That was when Surfers drew to within three points of the premiers as they took control of clearances.
But, as was the case throughout the clash, PBC were able to kick goals at just the right time to hold the Demons at arm’s length.
“That was exactly what we expected (from Surfers),” said Sinclair.
“They are a physical side and they threw everything at us, and vice-versa.”
The physicality of the clash was evident from the opening bounce when fill-in Surfers ruckman Sam Jewell was smashed and left the ground concussed.
He did not return and that was one nail in the coffin for the Demons because he was a key part of their three-way ruck/forward combinations.
It left coach Brad Moore trying to find ways to use remaining ruck options Matt Green and Thompson Smith to best advantage.
“The loss of Sam hurt us because you then start to play around with your forward structures,” he said.
“So I thought our guys did well to fight out the game the way they did with one less player for the pretty much the four quarters.”
While the mood in the Surfers camp was clearly one of disappointment, there was a lot of talk along the lines of ‘they got us this time on their small ground, let’s see how they go against us on a bigger ground’.
That, of course, is problematical because Surfers have still to win a preliminary final next weekend to get another crack at the Lions.
“We’ll assess it and hopefully get another crack at them in a couple of weeks,” said Moore.
“But this was a really good quality finals game, a high quality game, and our boys will take some positives out of it.”
Across the board there were some great one-on-ones, none more riveting that that between gun PBC forward Jack Anthony and Demons skipper Brody Haberfield in his 150th appearance for the red and the blues.
Anthony kicked 3.2, two of those majors in the final term so it is fair to say that the Demons skipper did his job well.
So did PBC skipper Steve Thynne, his cool head under pressure a standout.
But it was key defender Jackson Emblem who won the nod as the Lions best.
The veteran took some telling marks and used his possessions wisely and too advantage.
Brothers Jed and Zac Harrison were also prominent, as has been the case for much of the season, and playmaker Dylan Troutman had several good moments.
For Surfers, Brody Haberfield was good but coach Moore thought fellow defender Jack Taylor was his best.
A fiery Matt Green in the ruck and midfielders Josh Matulis and Jack Yelland were two other Demons to turn in solid contributions.
Palm Beach Currumbin 2.6, 5.7, 8.10, 12.11 (83)
Surfers Paradise 0.3, 2.5, 6.5, 8.8 (56)
GOALS, Palm Beach Currumbin: J. Anthony 3, Z. Harrison 1, J. Woolley 1, A. McKenzie 1, S. Thynne 1, A. Dawson 1, J. Harrison 1, J. Derrick 1, D. Troutman 1. Surfers Paradise: D. Green 3, T. Smith 2, M. Green 1, H. Fraser 1, N. Corbett 1.
BEST, Palm Beach Currumbin: J. Emblem, S. Thynne, D. Troutman, J. Harrison, Z. Harrison, A. Munro. Surfers Paradise: J. Taylor, J. Matulis, M. Green, J. Yelland, B. Haberfield, N. Harrison.