By Beth Newman
Morningside finished their unblemished season, winning the QAFL premiership over Labrador, completing the first perfect state league season since Southport in 1999.
Through 20 matches of football, the closest anyone had come to the Panthers was 22 points, and that record remained after their 22.17 (149) – 15.6 (96) win over the Tigers.
In an incredible second half, Simon Seddon booted 10 goals for Labrador after the Tigers trailed by 66 points at the major break, his last coming as the full-time siren rang, giving the Tigers the most extreme of bittersweet emotions.
The end of the final match drew to a close a season of expectation and external pressure and it gave Morningside coach, David Lake, a chance to assess his side’s dominance through 2014.
“Now that we’ve won I can say out loud, we won because we worked harder and we were better than everybody else,” he said.
“It’s been perfect in many ways and there’s a lot of good people that have contributed to this.
“A lot of people were helping it unfold.”
Morningside dominated the opening exchanges, with six first-quarter goals, giving the Tigers a mammoth task to come back.
The Tigers bit back in the second, dominating the stoppages and getting plenty of attacking opportunities, but the Morningside back line stood strong.
Two exciting passages of play from Ryan Davey looked promising for the Tigers, but they couldn’t finish off their hard work.
It was the second half, where the Tigers really clawed some pride back, led by Seddon, along with Davey with wingman Adam Baird.
Josh Clarke exited the game with an injury partway through the third, pushing Blake Bantoft into the ruck in the final stages.
In a dominant Panthers side, it was 21 year-old Lachie Russ who proved the standout ,winning the Joe Grant Medal in his first grand final.
Russ thrived on the big stage in his best on ground performance, and said it was a dream way to end the year.
“About halfway through the last quarter, the steam went out of the game a bit and we really tried to enjoy it,” he said.
“It’s huge (to win themedal) and I’m sure I’ll treasure it a bit more.
“I’m really happy to be playing footy for Morningside.”
Lake said it was fantastic to see Russ recognised for his game.
“I don’t think everyone respects him enough,” he said.
“I thought Seddon or Evans was going to climb over him, when he has just worked so hard.
Alastair Nash came into his own in the premiership decider, with the footy on a string, playing one of the most dominant performances of his career, let alone this season.
Young defender, Michael Wyld, held Labrador key forward Nick Stockdale well during the day, with Stockdale goalless until deep in the fourth.
Ash Evans had three goals by half-time, but his influence was quelled in the second half.
Jamie Hackett finished with four goals for the Panthers, one of 12 individual goal kickers, while Rhys Power and Hayden Wilson were also damaging in the attacking half.
Nathan Kinch was thrown up forward and had a strong second half, while ruckman Peter Mollison , also chipped in with three.
After a head clash forced him off the ground, Morningside co-captain, Paul Shelton kicked a goal on the half-time siren and went on to be one of his side’s best, on a day where there were few negatives for the Panthers faithful.
Labrador coach ,Steve Daniel, expressed his praise for his charges after the game.
“I’m so proud of all of you and what you’ve achieved,”he said.
“You have come such a long way.
Daniel said the Panthers were still the benchmark for other clubs to aspire to.
“We are striving to get where you are.”
Morningside completed the double in reserves and seniors on the day, as their reserves won back-to-back premierships.