By Chris ‘Yeendy’ Yeend
Who would have thought that the premiers of the last two seasons would be battling it out in an Elimination Final.
The Demons went from winning a memorable Grand Final in 2019 to not making finals in a COVID interrupted season in 2020.
The recovery across the season has been nothing short of outstanding with a quality line-up that has taken on the best in the competition and been successful for the most part.
On the other hand, Morningside took everything in their stride last year to win the premiership. After a strong showing against 2019 Grand Finalists Palm Beach Currumbin in the season opener, it played one solid quarter in the Grand Final rematch against Broadbeach before going down by 50-points.
It was a disappointing outcome for the Panthers who were hoping to continue on that stellar form that it produced in the 2020 premiership year. Perhaps its most disappointing performance however came in the final round before lock-down when Sherwood saluted victory for its second time over the Panthers when it won by 71-points.
Meeting this season
Round 11 – Surfers Paradise 12.10 (82) defeated Morningside 10.7 (67)
1 – 9
2 – 6
3 – 9
4 – 7
The Demons have shown the ability to start strongly across all of their matches. They have statistically started their games strong, and come out of the half-time break starting strongly. They have won 31 quarters this year.
The balance of the performances of Surfers Paradise this year has been reflected across its goal scoring. It has kicked 80 goals in the first half and 75 goals in the second half. It has kicked 10 goals or more in the first and second half on one occasion. With an average score of 91 points per game in attack, it has proved to be on average a 15-point better side across all matches. It’s average points against, 76 is the second most conceded by a team in the top six.
1 – 8
2 – 6
3 – 7
4 – 6
The Panthers have struggled to hit the scoreboard this year, averaging 77 points per game to rank seventh in the competition and a staggering 182 points fewer than fifth ranked Surfers Paradise. They have won 27 quarters, only marginally starting the game stronger than how they finish.
Morningside has kicked 65 goals in the first half this year and kicked 74 in the second half. It has kicked 10 goals or more in a half, once. The silver lining is that it has only conceded 100 points or more in just two matches, both against reigning semi-finalists Sherwood who won’t feature in the finals this year and it’s safe to suggest that the Pies match up against the Panthers better than any other team in the competition.
Surfers Paradise has had a challenging year in terms of fixture, playing teams in the top six on eight occasions, the most of any team in the QAFL. Despite the challenging draw, it has risen to the occasion, winning 50-percent of its matches and beating every team except Broadbeach, a team it has only played once. It’s average losing margin against the top six sides is 29-points, thanks largely to Redland-Victoria Point winning by 58-points in the opening round. It’s average winning margin against the top six teams is 12-points with the one-point win over ladder leaders Labrador being the highlight.
The Devils have lost one match to a team in the bottom half of the ladder, by 14-points but has been outstanding in its four other matches with three wins by 70-points or more at an average of 63-points.
Morningside have played six matches against teams in the top six with a 4-2 record. It was unfortunately not to have the chance to play Labrador but did record two wins each against fellow Elimination Finalists Redland-Victoria Point and Maroochydore. If the Panthers were to face either of those two teams in the later stages of the finals, they’d feel very confident.
The Panthers have an average losing margin of 30-points against the top six teams and an average winning margin of 14-points, just two greater than its opponents who have also secured four wins for the season in this space.
Winning its opening four games against teams that would place outside of the six gave the Panthers some great confidence but its last three games saw them lose to those teams. They have an average winning margin of 35-points against teams outside the six and average losing margin of 31-points against those same teams.
Key players to watch
Brody Haberfield – on his day, he is one of the must-watch players in the competition. He leads well, is quick, strong overhead and commands the space in front of him. With 28 goals to his name this season, he has shown that when he is on top of his game, he is tough to beat.
Alby Jones – players don’t come much tougher than him in the QAFL. Strong, rugged, relentless and so clever. He has been a key cog in this team’s success for quite some time and if the Demons get up, he has his finger prints all over it.
Sam Hilton-Joyce – with 27 goals to his name this year, he has been one of the great success stories in this team. Strong in the air, great goal sense and incredible coverage across the ground, this man in the number 6 jumper has proven time and time again that he can give that little bit extra when the game is on the line and have a say on his team winning. Alongside Haberfield, the pair combine for more than 25-percent of the Demons’ goals.
Ben Warren – has form against the Demons with a handy haul of five-goals in the Round 11 clash this year. He single handedly brought them back into the Panthers back into the game. The former North Melbourne and Werribee product is very handy in the goal mouth and strong over-head.
Where will the match be won
Will Pendlebury – an outstanding and truly gifted player that sweeps the ball across half-back to perfection and resembles the quarter-back role of the backline. He directs traffic really well and is a key to many forward thrusts.
Kelly Castle – a bold selection when there is plenty of other superstars to feature but Castle slips under the radar of the competition. A key performer for Moreton Bay in the premiership win last year, Castle has started to make his name on the wing in a team of true talent. He is small, quick and a great user of the ball. He kicked six goals against a quality Maroochydore outfit in a best on ground performance in the second last game and he will definitely be a key at half forward and through the midfield in this game.
Where will the match be won
In the forward half for Surfers Paradise. If the key forwards are completely shut down and the game turns into a low-scoring affair, Morningside will be very tough to beat. A low scoring game will set them nicely.
A lot has to go wrong for Surfers Paradise for it to not win. Morningside has a lot of talent in the midfield with Brock and Campbell Aston; and Brad Hodge in the ruck but the speed of Surfers Paradise at ground level and ability to find space where there is none, is going to be tough to stop.