QAFL: Grand Final Game Review

Submitted by Chris Yeend. 

The Aspley Hornets tasted Senior Men’s premiership success in the QAFL on Saturday at Giffin Park when it conquered undefeated reigning premiers Broadbeach by 45-points.

The Hornets led for 114.5 minutes of the 119.5-minute contest to take the premiership cup home to Graham Road in one of the most remarkable victories in the 2022 season.

Broadbeach had not lost a game in 447 days leading into the contest; last tasting defeat at the hands of Sherwood in Round 13 2021 when it lost by 26-points; and the final loss in a hat-trick of defeats (including losses to Redland-Victoria Point and Labrador) before storming through the remainder of the COVID interrupted season to win the 2021 flag.

Aspley went into the contest with injury clouds over some of its stars with Jordan Hayden succumbing to a hamstring injury and failing to overcome a fitness test an hour prior to the game.

With the sadness of Hayden’s injury omission after playing every game of the season; came the positive news that youngster Lachy Harrop would be injected into the team as an emergency. Luck was on Harrop’s side as he was a late addition to the Senior team in the Preliminary Final win over the Sharks; and for the second week in a row, was able to make the most of his call-up.

Broadbeach went into the contest virtually full strength and had benefited from the depth across its playing list throughout the season to find the perfect combination of players to suit the role with the best available list for the big game. The Cats were no stranger to making numerous changes in its line-up for various reasons across the year and it worked well to perfection with the team consistently winning matches from different match scenarios.

FIRST QUARTER – Tight Tussle with Hornets getting the upper-hand
With both teams playing on a non-traditional QAFL ground, it was going to be a testing experience to work out the spacing and match ups between players. A cross-wind blowing from wing-to-wing at more than 15kph across the day would also play havoc; and 29 degree and 50-percent humidity conditions were going to assure that this contest was going to be a brutal battle.

Both teams had their chances early; but it was Connor Stackleberg that found space at left half forward with a mark and long range goal from a challenge angle to open up the account at the 7.5-minute mark. The kick was made even more challenging as the star goal kicker had to send the ball out to the left hand goal post to allow for that strong breeze to bring it back. It was a sign that the Hornets were on.

Coen Harker kicked the second goal of the game just minutes later; and already made a statement on the contest early after being arguably the player of the finals to that point.

The move of James Nelis to centre half forward for the Hornets really upset the Broadbeach balance in defense who perhaps lacked the height and poise to shut down two key talls that were seeing plenty of the ball.

Broadbeach were having trouble finding targets inside the forward 50 with Jordan Moncrieff and Sam Jasper having their influence negated.

Aspley had praised Liam Dawson for his incredible efforts over the passed few years and he was easily the general in the backline in season 2022, and was recognised by being named in the QAFL team of the year. He started to cause trouble in the opening term and dictated play nicely.

When Nick Dodge kicked the third goal for the Hornets at the 23-minute mark of the term, the lead ballooned out to 17 points and the crowd was stunned.

Fortunately for the reigning premiers, Brad Lowe marked and kicked a steadier just minutes before quarter time to cut the margin back to 11-points.

Aspley led 3.2.20 to 1.3.9

SECOND QUARTER – Dawson dominates; Banks-Smith goes down
Broadbeach had the opening shot on goal inside the first minute of the term with a narrow miss from Nelson. The hope of the first score was to ignite the forward line and midfield for the Cats, but unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.

Liam Dawson played one of the best quarters from any defender in the competition; taking about 5 intercept marks from Broadbeach kicks inside the forward 50. A Grand Final had not seen such a commanding performance from a backman at a high level since Brian Lake did for the Hawks in the 2013 AFL Grand Final.

Broadbeach started to get on top in the midfield with Riley Bowman outstanding in the ruck against QAFL team of the year ruckman Will Wolbers; even beating him at his own game on several occasions with repeat efforts at ground level from ruck stoppages.

With Selby getting some key touches and Jarrod Harbrow sweeping the ball nicely across half-back, the Broadbeach machine functioned well in all areas except its execution into the forward line that had Dawson play a one-man-wrecking-machine.

Nelis took a telling mark inside the forward 50 and kicked the opening goal of the quarter for the Hornets to push the lead to a game-high 18-points early in the term.

Aspley’s Errin Wasley-Black took the mark of the day at the eight-minute mark when he scored some hangtime on a Broadbeach opponent at centre half forward.

When Sam Jasper kicked a goal for the Cats at the 11.5-minute mark, there was some hope of a revival.

This revival was snuffed out when Tom Watson sharked the ball out of the ruck in the forward pocket and kicked a right foot banana off a step to kick what could have easily been the goal of the finals series.

Brad Lynch replied shortly after for the Cats; but Connor Stackleberg ruined the party with another big-time goal deep into time-on.

Nick Dodge had spent almost as much time in the hands of the medical staff in the first half with numerous niggles and knocks, including damage to his right thumb. However, he took note of Watson’s goal and raised him, going all in with a mesmorising snap running towards goal in the forward pocket with the best goal of the year.

For those that haven’t seen it (27-minute mark in  the second term), think Jason Akermanis running towards goal on the boundary line at the Gabba in the wet against Geelong; except Dodge’s goal was on a more acute angle.

The margin blew out to 26-points.

There was chaos on the ground for the Hornets with Grogan Medalist Ryan Banks-Smith going down with a knee injury in the shadows of half-time as the crowd went silent.

The silence turned into a roar when Riley Winter kicked a big time goal to cut the margin back to 20-points heading into half-time.
Aspley led 7.6.48 to 4.4.28

THIRD QUARTER – Hornets inject the sting of premiership glory

Both teams traded missed opportunities early to start the term before Jackson Fisher kicked the opening goal at the 10.5-minute mark of the quarter to cut the margin back to 15-points. For the Cats, this would be last goal for 38-minutes of play and the game was sown up when that next goal came.

Banks-Smith returned to the field; Dodge was on and off the bench, Dawson was dominating in the backline; and Stackleberg/Nelis combination up forward was proving too much for the Cats.

The 2021 Grogan Medal winner Moncrieff found himself pushing further up the ground just to get effective disposal.

When co-captain Brandon Batchelor kicked a goal on the run at the 20-minute mark of the term; the margin blew out to a game-high 29-point lead and the game was as good as done.

He added a second for good measure just minutes later to push the margin out to 34-points at three-quarter time.

Aspley led 10.11.71 to 5.7.37

FINAL QUARTER – Cats need a miracle; Hornets crack open the champagne
Broadbeach coach Craig O’Brien told the Commentary team at three-quarter time that his team needed  a miracle to win.

The miracle was snuffed out just 2.5-minutes into the final term with Watson kicking his third goal and the margin exploding to 40-points.

When Stackleberg kicked his fourth goal at the five-minute mark; the margin was 45-points and the game was all but sealed as both teams played out the remainder of the contest as the Hornets celebrated their debut in the QAFL with a 45-point win; 13.13.91 to 6.10.46.

– Stackleberg and Watson both went goalless in the win over Redlands-Victoria Point (Stackleberg kicked 0.2) and both combined for seven goals (Stackleberg 4.2 and Watson 3.4), 48 points which was more than the final score for Broadbeach.

– Liam Dawson was the easy winner of the Joe Grant Medal and arguably had it in the bag at half-time. He had a team-high 24 disposals, 17 kicks, 13 contested possesions, 8 contested marks and a staggering 11 intercept marks. Broadbeach had 11 intercept marks as a team.

– Aspley’s disposal efficiency was 82-percent in comparison to Broadbeach that had 62-percent.

– Jarrod Harbrow led the disposal count for the game with 28 touches including a game-high 21 disposals and team-high 13 uncontested disposals.

– Emergency Lachy Harrop had 12 touches; eight of which were contested.

– Aspley led the inside 50 count 51 to 46 but won by 45-points and scored on 50-percent of entries as opposed to Broadbeach at 35-percent.

– Broadbeach ruckman Riley Bowman led the game for clearances with 10 to go with 17 touches and 23 hitouts. By comparison, Will Wolberts had 9 touches and 32 hit-outs.

– Lucas Jellyman Turner had 22 touches (third highest on the ground) and six rebounds from 50 (game-high) in St Mary’s premiership win in the NTFL back in March; he had 17 touches for Broadbeach in the 2022 QAFL Grand Final.

– 2022 Grogan Medal winner Ryan Banks-Smith had 22 touches at 91-percent with an equal game-high six inside 50s; while 2021 Grogan Medal winner Jordan Moncrieff had seven kicks and didn’t register a score.

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