Sunday 29 August 2010

The gutsy Northern Territory Thunder shrugged off a nightmare travel schedule to give Mt Gravatt the fright of their lives in a top quality QAFL elimination final at Giffin Park, Coorparoo today.

When the Thunder booted three goals in as many minutes to draw within six points of Mt Gravatt in time-on of the final quarter, a boilover loomed large.

The Vultures showed just why they had won seven games straight against allcomers in the lead-up to the sudden death final by manufacturing four goals in five minutes to win by 31 points, the margin in no way reflecting the nature of the contest.

“That was close to the best QAFL game that I have been involved in,” said a breathless Vultures coach David Lake, thankful for the  16.13 (109) to 11.12 (78) victory.

There was a major injury concern for the Vultures, with co-captain Josh Vearing injuring an ankle in the second term and not returning.

His absence was significant for the Vultures, although Lake was hopeful he would play in the first semi final at Southport on Saturday.

“Josh is an optimist and will give himself every chance,” said Lake, who admitted his trump card would be closely monitored during the week.

The Thunder went into the game without outstanding big man Kenrick Tyrrell, who succumbed to a knee injury, although the Vultures were unable to dominate the bounces.

The ground level contests were ferocious, with the Thunder attacking the ball just as hard as the Vultures.

“We have prided ourselves on our hardness at the footy over the last couple of months but they matched us every inch of the way,” Lake said.

The Thunder’s tough travel schedule, where they spent three hours at Darwin airport waiting for their scheduled flight, then nine-hour trip via Sydney through the night on an alternative plane, didn’t slow them.

Jarred and Cameron Ilett and Brett Goodes threw themselves fearlessly into contests, while young revelation Willie Kossack won plenty of ball all day.

When they went forward, bulky full-forward Darren Ewing proved a handful for the in-form Adam Tarrant.

Ewing kicked five of his side’s first seven goals and finished with six for the day, although Tarrant was still able to win his share of one-on-one contests.

The Thunder’s problem was shutting down key Vultures midfielder Ash Evans, who was a prolific ballwinner all day and then lifted in the last five minutes when his side’s premiership aspirations looked under serious threat.

The hard running Mick Hamill was again critical in the final outcome, while Rory Lake’s in-and-under work in the first half was pivotal to his side leading by 15 points at the long break.

While the Thunder relied heavily on Ewing and the talented Zephi Skinner (three goals) for the bulk of their scoring, Mt Gravatt had a remarkable 13 different goalkickers.

The spread of goals was typical of 2007, when the Vultures won their last premiership.

Dean Page and Damien Steven helped the Vultures take control of the midfield at different stages while Amua Pirika continued his outstanding form in defence.

“We’ve got to be happy with that. The Thunder were terrific – it was just a great game of footy,” Lake said.

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