Sunday 29 August 2010

There were some serious casualties as Morningside rediscovered their best form at the right time of the year to overwhelm Southport by 43 points at Fankhauser Reserve today and set up a classic showdown with Labrador for the right to advance to the 2010 QAFL grand final.

The Panthers lost champion big man Jacob Gough with suspected broken ribs late in the first term of the qualifying final, former Southport premiership captain Darren O’Brien left with an identical injury around the same time, and then inspirational Sharks skipper Danny Wise strained his hamstring to cause big headaches in both camps.

While 19-year-old Tom Hickey rucked manfully in Gough’s absence in a brilliant display from a raw youngster, Southport could not find a replacement for Wise, who had begun the game strongly.

Morningside set up the win by kicking 4.1 to 2.4 into the teeth of a stiff 3-4 goal breeze in the opening term, then rammed home their ascendancy with an eight-goal-to-two second term.

Southport were unable to make a run at the Panthers at any stage, despite outscoring the victors by four points in the second half.

The news gets worse for the Sharks, who have star wingman David James and young forward Matt Fowler on report, James for alleged abusive language and Fowler for allegedly striking Tom Bell.

Bell was flattened off the ball in the opening five minutes of the game, sparking a string of spotfires that would last for three quarters.

Despite hitting the deck on a number of occasions, Bell was rock solid in defence and will have hugely impressed any AFL talent scouts in the sizeable crowd.

The strength of the umpiring ensured that it didn’t, with the three field umpires working well together to pick up numerous free kicks off the ball.

Southport paid the heavier penalty, giving away two ‘double’ goals for with free kicks without the ball returning to the centre in the second term.

Morningside’s attack on the ball was fierce, while their tackling was equally ferocious and forced Southport into numerous turnovers.

“Our players’ discipline and ability to withstand all the pressure that was applied was very good,” said Panthers coach John Blair..

“That’s what it’s about, that controls the game. We were pretty happy in that department.”

Blair said his coaching staff did not need to overemphasise the need for discipline.

“Not that much, because the player kept on reminding themselves, you could hear them out there on the ground. They were very focused,” he said.

It may have been a watershed game for Damien Bonney, who was best-on-ground for the second week in succession.

Bonney, who was in the top 10 in Syd Guildford Trophy voting before it went into secret for the last month, will come home with a wet sail, and continued his great form in the finals.

More importantly for his team, he didn’t get distracted from the task of winning the football despite all the niggle going on.

He was able to get under the skin of Sharks opponents on a number of occasions and cut them to shreds through the midfield, his pinpoint passing being a feature of his game.

In fact, the Panthers collectively used the ball superbly, while the Sharks generally made life hard for their teammates with poor disposal, particularly moving forward.

Morningside’s run and overlap from half back and through the middle was far superior to the Sharks, with Nathan Kinch in particular and Jack Lawler constantly hurting the home side.

Paul Shelton’s centre clearance work was outstanding and his understanding with youngster Hickey was important to the outcome.

Co-captain Kent Abey was inspirational for much of the day, taking a string of strong contested marks, contributing two first half goals, and creating a number of others with his one-percenters.

His regular opponent Kurt Niklaus mopped up well when required with the defence under siege, but had his hands full with Abey.

It was a similar story for the Sharks back six, who were too busy trying to stop their men and the fleet of Morningside midfielders running at them to provide enough drive themselves.

Glenn Screech was the exception, while Tom Daniel also tried hard to get his side going forward.

Rover Matthew Payne played close to his best game for the Sharks, starting well and getting better as the game wore on.

The only time the Sharks looking capable of stringing goals together was when Payne took control of the clearances in the last quarter.

Morningside dominated the clearances for the opening three terms, with Alastair Nash doing an outstanding job in locking down on Sharks matchwinner Darren Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer was admirable in the way he tried to run the youngster into the ground, but Nash was his equal.

Sam Brown spent large portions of the second half on Pfeiffer in the second half and did a solid job, although Pfeiffer kept on running til the bitter end.

James won plenty of ball in the first three quarters of his 150th match milestone but his disposal was uncharacteristically wayward, while Ben Merrett couldn’t get into the game at centre-half-forward opposed to Aaron Rogers, but worked hard in the ruck when pinchitting in the second half in his 100th game.

Leading full-forward Cleve Hughes struggled to shake the close-checking Jarrod Price, who produced one of his finest games at full-back.

As Blair said afterwards: “We’re going through and rating everybody and it’s been hard to rate anyone as not at least breaking even with an opponent.”

Sharks coach Craig Crowley was bitterly disappointed with his side’s performance, lamenting their lack of security with the ball, turnovers, and poor discipline.

“At the end of the day, we were pathetic, we didn’t want to chase, we didn’t want to run, didn’t want to create. We didn’t do anything right,” Crowley said.

“We sugar-coated it a bit by outscoring them after halftime – that was purely and simply because they had done the job.

“They kicked four or five goals from our indiscretions and that’s poor football by anyone’s account. It was a  totally unprofessional attitude to have.”

Crowley was frustrated that he felt his side had negated the rebound usually provided by Rogers from half-back, and that of Nick Tomlinson, but still were swept aside.

Veteran Dane Carmody prevented Tomlinson from rebounding his usual fashion, but was knocked out cold in an accidental head-clash early in the final term.

He had played a part in the Sharks kicking two goals in the first two minutes and were on the charge again when his fearless approach on the ball saw him KO’d before he hit the ground.

The five-minute delay while he was attended to stopped any form of momentum that the Sharks had generated.

While Morningside appear a huge threat to Labrador in the second semi-final at Cooke-Murphy Oval on Sunday, Southport have plenty of problems approaching Saturday’s first semi-final against Mt Gravatt back at Fankhauser Reserve.

“I believe they’re a good bunch of blokes with good character but they’ve got to come out the other side. It’s up to them,” Crowley said of his charges.

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