By Chris ‘Yeendy’ Yeend
After a near-flawless season in 2021, Labrador is on top of the QAFL Reserves world after celebrating a famous 39-point win over Morningside at Fankhauser Reserve in Southport on Saturday.
After leading by 24-points at the opening change, the 2021 minor premiers were simply in a class of their own when it triumphed over the Panthers and keep the second premiership on offering for the day at Tiger Land on the Gold Coast.
The pair fought a famous battle in the semi-final at Labrador with Morningside winning after kicking a point after the siren to send itself through to the Grand Final and inflict Labrador’s first loss of the 2021 season.
Expectations were extremely high that both teams could match the intensity and breath-taking football that produced that thrilling result. However, by quarter-time, a statement had been made by the minor premiers and the Panthers were left chasing tail for the remainder of the game.
Morningside ruckman Will Wolbers produced a stunning dual with fellow ruckman of Labrador, Tom Hofert as the pair contested for most ruck contests across the day.
Wolbers arguably won the battle across the day, not just against Hofert but against most other opposition players as the rare shining light for the Panthers across the four quarters.
Matt Freeman had the tough dual on reigning league best and fairest winning Teejay Halkias and made it look easy at times as he completely shut Halkias out of the game. Freeman provided a hard tag on the star midfielder and made him earn every disposal with close checking and cutting down any potential dominance.
Blair Rubock showed plenty of flair up forward for the Tigers in the first half, kicking two opening term goals and taking a number of strong marks. Team-mate Pat Turner marked everything that went his way from 0-20 metres out in front of goal, and Morningside struggled to find a direct match-up for him.
The second-quarter was a key to the victory for Labrador, although it could have easily been its downfall. It had 11 shots on goal for 2.8 and an out of bounds on the full, but the issue for Morningside was that from every kick in, it turned the ball over at half-back and gifted Labrador with more scoring opportunities.
There was a rare instance when Morningside cleared the ball from half-back and kicked its first goal of the game, but at half-time, it trailed by 38-points and needed something special to turn things around.
Ben Murray appeared lively up forward for the Panthers; while O’Neill Moncrieff and Wilson Barry more than held their heads high with some tremendous defensive work and great contests through the midfield.
Josh Hammond was dangerous in the backline for the Panthers with his golden first applying a number of spoils and it also led to a bad cut on his head that led to several occasions of being sent from the field for the blood rule and a jumper change.
Labrador extended its lead by one-point from half-time with the premiership signed, sealed, and delivered at three-quarter-time on the back of a seven-goal lead.
Shaydan Close was dangerous up forward with one goal from four shots, Rhys Coombe was lively at half-forward, Bailey Reeves was outstanding through half-back and the midfield, Bill Hicks was a rock at half-back and in the middle before succumbing to a lower leg injury in the third-term and Kurt McMahon was rock-solid in the backline.
Labrador proved it had so many winners across the ground and showcased just why it deserved to be crowned the 2021 Reserves Premiers.
Labrador 4.2, 6.10, 9.11, 10.16 (76)
Morningside 0.2, 1.2, 3.5, 5.7 (37)
Goals: (Labrador) P. Turner 4, B. Rubock 3, R. Coombe 2, S. Close 1. (Morningside) B.Murray 3, D. D’Roza 1, E. Mallan 1.
Best on ground – Matt Freeman (Labrador)
Picture by Deion Menzies, Highflyer Images