Sunday 22 August 2010

Morningside ace David Lillico emerged from his first game in four months unscathed and a host of fringe players thrust their hands up for finals selection in the Panthers’ free-wheeling 18-point win over Redland at Victoria Point today.

The Panthers won a rollicking contest 23.17 (155) to 20.17 (137) to notch their 18th consecutive win over the feisty Bombers, who attacked at all costs and went within a whisker of an upset.

The big news of the day was champion midfielder Lillico’s return straight into senior football after a knee reconstruction.

He underwent the radical LARS surgery after Round 3 and was back in action just 17 weeks later.

Lillico had little effect on the game, but Morningside were just happy to see the gamebreaker back out on the ground.

“He’s fine,” Panthers coach John Blair said of Lillico’s condition after the game. “There’s some positives from him, but it’s now a wait and see.”

Blair was coy about whether he would play the longtime State captain and two-time club champion in next week’s qualifying final at Southport.

“It will be interesting to see,” Blair smiled.

What will also be interesting is Blair’s selection meeting later this week.

Austin Lucy, Alastair Nash and Jake Thomlinson missed the Redland clash but will almost certainly return next week.

The Panthers were well served by twins Josh and Sam Brown today, with Josh kicking four goals and setting up numerous others from half-forward, and Sam going back into defence in the second half to lock down on a rampaging James Charlesworth.

Charlesworth kicked four goals in the opening half, including two brilliant snaps, and added another in the third term to finish with 5.2 for the day.

“Josh was really good,” Blair agreed. “Sam put his time up at halftime and he got the job on Charlesworth. To his credit, Charlesworth only got one goal off the ground from a fallen ball and Sam hurt him a lot with his run and carry.”

Charlesworth was still a contributor in the second half and ranked high in his side’s best player list.

The other engaging battle was between Kent Abey and Adrian Williams, with Abey working particularly hard and kicking four goals, as well as having a hand in a number of others.

He also contributed a number of one-percenters, yet Williams was also very good in patches.

Damien Bonney was a key in the midfield for the Panthers, Paul Shelton was also critical around the clearanaces, particularly in the first half, and youngster Tom Bell was excellent in defence.

Ryan Holman was close to best afield at halftime, but left the game in the third term as precaution.

The Panthers also saw Jack Lawler roll his ankle in the warm-up before the game and he spent just 90 seconds on the ground before the coaching staff elected to put him on ice too.

The lack of rotations meant Lillico had to do some unplanned extra work.

“We had to play him more than we possibly wanted to and in different positions to what we wanted to,” Blair said. “That’s now in the bank – he’s got some extra time and some extra k’s in the bank.”

Redland were also disappointed to lose key forward Scott Clouston before the game with a badly broken nose.

But they began brightly, kicking 7.3 to 8.2 in a dazzling opening quarter by both sides.

It continued to rain goals in the second quarter, with the Bombers getting out to a 19-point lead halfway through the quarter, only to be reeled in by halftime.

The Panthers booted 7.7 to 2.2 in the third quarter, mainly through dominating the centre clearances after conceding in that area early. When Abey goalled a minute into the final term, the margin was 31 points and the result appeared a formality.

However, the Bombers kicked four goals in five minutes – with inspirational skipper Phil Carse netting two of them – to draw within eight points.

Morningside responded, but when Carse launched a bomb on the run from 55m, it was back to eight points.

The Panthers steadied as the Bombers missed a couple of set shots, Abey icing the game at the 26-minute mark.

Youngster Josh Breukers (three goals) was very good for the Panthers, as was teenage ruckman Tom Hickey, while 17-year-old Adam Oxley played a big part in the Redland revival.

Carse and Matt Thomson were outstanding all day for the Bombers, while Daniel Dzufer also did everything he could to lift his side.

Ben Weightman was lively early with three goals, including a spectacular soccer effort out of mid-air during the second quarter.

“It was a good way to finish the year, it gives us confidence that we’re not that far off the top teams,” said Bombers coach Matty Francis.

Redland finished with a 9-9 record, one game behind the fifth-placed NT Thunder.

Blair was positive about his team’s prospects.

“We expected it to be a running shootout all day so we got what we expected,” he said. “It would have been nice to close them down a little bit earlier but even though they were around it most of the time, I still felt we had control most of the day.

“I thought we were always going to win the game… it was a matter of hanging in and hoping nobody got hurt.”

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