By Beth Newman
Morningside shrugged off the weight of expectation, propelling themselves into the QAFL grand final with a win over Palm Beach.
After a tight first half, the Panthers broke the game open with a six-goal to one third term, running out 16.12 (108) – 8.9 (57) winners.
Morningside’s midfield did most of the damage, with Nathan Kinch reminding spectators why he is a Grogan Medal favourite, while Ash Evans was silky smooth in the middle, in a game coach, David Lake, described as “pretty perfect”.
Panthers forward, Kent Abey, was almost unbeatable one-on-one, comfortably taking his battle with Lions defender, Liam McNeven, in the match, finishing with four goals for the day.
After inaccurate conversion saw them with a 1.8 return in the first quarter, Morningside tightened up their efficiency and coach, David Lake, said that was the key.
“Once we tidied up our skills, we were fine,” he said.
“We continued to work at the same level and once they saw weakness, over 5-10 minutes, we didn’t get a score, then all of a sudden it was like ‘bang’.”
Late inclusion, Will Wolbers, was impressive for Morningside in the ruck, stepping up in the absence of James O’Donnell.
The match proved a similar tale to the sides’ two regular season fixtures, with the Lions ‘ defensive pressure keeping them level early, before they Gold Coast side were undone by a lapse.
Despite the intense nature of their defensive game plan, Palm Beach coach, Daryn Cresswell, said it wasn’t over exertion early that cost them the first grand final spot.
“We got opened up like a can of worms,” he said.
“We’ve got guys who can run a 15/16 in the beep test, but when we get into a game, they’re mentally weak, in my personal opinion.
“Blokes get desperate and if things aren’t going their way, they start kick chasing.”
Cresswell praised the effort of Matt Dillon, who had an impact at centre half-forward.
The Lions were left searching for a tall in the centre, after Davan Dyer injured his calf, with Bryce Perry-Bolt called into the middle late in the game.
A hamstring injury could spell the end of Brock Askey’s season as well, a pinch of salt in the wound of a tough loss for the Lions.
Despite the eventual margin, Cresswell was keeping things in perspective after the match.
“That wasn’t the grand final today,” he said.
“For two and a half quarter, it was pretty level, but we threw caution to the wind and they opened us up on the back of that.”
Palm Beach now faces the winner of tomorrow’s minor semi final between Labrador and Mt Gravatt, while the Panthers have a week to rest up before they contest for the 2014 QAFL flag.
Listen to our interview with Morningside’s Nathan Kinch here.