Saturday 4 September 2010

To steal a line from a famous movie: ‘Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water….’

Just like the monster shark in ‘Jaws’, Southport chewed up Mt Gravatt and spat them out in deadly fashion in the first semi-final at Fankhauser Reserve today.

With two wins from their last seven matches, the Sharks were drowning very quickly, but they rediscovered their hunger at just the right time to devour the Vultures 20.10 (130) to 8. 15 (63).

The mindset of both teams was obvious in the first two minutes – the Vultures looked slow and lethargic, while Southport were ‘on’.

Two holding the ball free kicks to Southport in this time showed the Sharks were circling, and when they struck, it was savage.

Kicking into the teeth of a strong wind, they held their own and a 3.4 to 3.4 scoreline at quarter-time was as a good as a three-goal lead.

The Sharks then turned the second quarter into a feeding frenzy, using the breeze to perfection to ram on nine goals to one and set up an unassailable lead at halftime.

They never relented thereafter.

It was an amazing victory considering Mt Gravatt had won eight games straight and the Sharks were written off by many after losing dynamic captain Danny Wise (hamstring), former premiership skipper Darren O’Brien (ribs) and Joe Grant Medallist Dane Carmody (concussion) during the week.

The Sharks’ biggest problem in recent weeks has been their poor clearance work, but they turned that around from the outset today.

State rover Matty Payne was in everything, collecting 10 possessions, making several centre clearances, and laying a number of heavy tackles.

Adam Devine put enormous pressure on the classy Ash Evans and David Lynch did a strong job opposed to Damien Steven, who destroyed the Sharks in the corresponding game at the same ground just three weeks ago.

Coach Craig Crowley also used regular  back-up ruckman Michael Wise as a decoy half-forward, dragging the highly rated Tom Tarrant out of the play often but collecting some valuable possessions himself as the game wore on.

Southport’s forward line also functioned far better than in recent weeks.

The experienced Terry Knight gave them a huge lift across half-forward, Cameron Maclaren was back to his best, and Cleve Hughes provided a reliable target.

Maclaren kicked three of the Sharks’ first five goals and had in-form Mt Gravatt defender Jake Furfaro moved off him.

Knight also had three goals by halftime including a special banana from the boundary in the second term, and Hughes too had three in the first half and five for the game opposed to Adam Tarrant, who nonetheless did some good things.

With Darren Pfeiffer typically covering enormous territory opposed to Mitch Harley and David James busy on a wing, the Sharks had the midfield ascendancy they had been craving.

They played largely man-on-man and Mt Gravatt did not have the space to which they have been accustomed in recent weeks.

Apart from some precision kicking that was a feature of their first goal of the match, they looked largely flat.

They missed skipper Josh Vearing, who had his foot in a moon boot after injuring his ankle last week, and his co-captain Nathan Gilliland, who will now have his broken wrist operated on. A shoulder injury to Steven early in the second quarter didn’t help the Vultures’ cause.

Midfielder Mick Hamill was one of the few Vultures to have a real spark about his game and he ran hard and used the ball superbly.

Rory Lake worked hard at the bottom of the packs in the first half and was the most consistent player behind Hamill, while Dean Page and Chris Smith had some good patches.

The midfield and forward pressure that was applied made life much more pleasant for the Sharks defence, with Kurt Niklaus keeping Shane Morrison to a solitary goal, Ben Caputi keeping Darryl White under wraps and Tom Daniel providing tremendous drive from half-back.

Morrison, celebrating his 150th QAFL game, hurt his problem foot while leading, marking and goalling 12 minutes into the opening term, then was reported in the last quarter for charging.

Mt Gravatt’s cause wasn’t helped by three ‘posters’ inside the opening quarter and 30 seconds, although they never looked like troubling the Sharks.

Matchwinners like Page could not impose themselves on the contest as they have done through the second half of the season, with Dane Grant doing some special things in the second half while chasing Page around, including a brilliant goal from the boundary and another from 55 metres.

Southport showed they had learnt their lesson well from last week, concentrating solely on the football and winning their share of free kicks by being first to the ball.

While Dean Putt was solid in the ruck, Ben Merrett did a good job as his back-up, picking up a welter of possessions as the game wore on.

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