AFL NORTH COAST: Bullish Breakers leapfrog Saints
GRAFTON Tigers became the first team to reach the AFL North Coast grand final on Saturday but Coffs Harbour Breakers fired a warning shot as they returned to the top two.
Sealing their spot with a 21 point win over fellow contenders Sawtell Toormina Saints under lights at Richardson Park, the Tigers turned up with intensity as they tried to get in one more knockout blow before a possible rematch in a few weeks’ time.
Both teams squandered opportunities in front of the big sticks in the first half, with Grafton’s four point quarter time becoming a four point half time margin in favour of the Saints.
Knowing a win would see them through to the grand final, Grafton put the foot down with a five goal to two final term, to record the victory and a well-earned week off.
Grafton’s strength this year has been their ability to run out games and to score when under pressure. Their points for this season are 301 better than their nearest rival, and their attack will need to be curbed come decision day.
Ned O’Neill was the best in attack for Grafton, booting five majors, while Callum O’Loughlin contributed two. For the Saints, young star Ronan Singleton kicked two goals of his own.
Grafton Tigers 12.17 (89) defeated Sawtell Toormina Saints 9.14 (68)
At Fitzroy Oval, the Coffs Harbour leapfrogged the Saints into second spot on the ladder, thanks to a runaway win against the Port Macquarie Magpies.
The Breakers leapt out of the blocks early, registering an 11 scoring shot to one opening quarter to lead at the first change by 30 points.
The Magpies fought back hard in the second term, kicking six goals of their own in one of their best quarters of footy all season, to only trail at half time by eight points.
The Breakers then registered three goals in the third quarter, before piling on another ten in the last, while keeping Port scoreless in the second half.
The final 93 point margin sees the Breakers move into the top two, where an upset win next week against Grafton would assure them of a home semi final.
Coffs had many winners on the day, led by Joshua Lansdowne, Liam Beacom, Mathew Gleeson, Aidan Wallace, Jake Hayes, and Royce Close. The Breakers had multiple avenues to goal, with Close kicking five, Liam Dunn kicking three, and Michael McMahon, Tyler Ryan, Liam Spencer and Hayden Proctor each kicking two.
For Port, Braden Saggers was their only multiple goalkicker with three first half majors, and was named in the Magpies’ best along with Nathan Dorrington, Adam Wall, and Blake Nelson.
Coffs Harbour Breakers 19.19 (133) defeated Port Macquarie Magpies 6.4 (40)
In the women’s match, the Breakers continued their undefeated run this season, with a 46 point victory over the Saints.
A strength of the Breakers this season has been their tight defence, and this was evident again this match as they kept the Saints scoreless in three of the four quarters.
In comparison, the Breakers were able to kick goals in each quarter.
The Saints kicked both of their goals early in the third quarter to draw within 20 points. At this stage the momentum was with the Saints and it looked as though a comeback was a possibility, but the absence of a bench saw the Sawtell players run out of steam.
The Breakers will take some beating after the form they’ve shown throughout the whole season, and will get one last chance to hone their skills next week before the grand final, when they take on the Northern Beaches Blues.
Straight kicking in front of goal is a valuable commodity in any form of footy and the Breakers have a sharp shooter in Katika Adams who booted another three in this match. Further goals were kicked by Jaimee O’Connell and Amy Johanson (two each), while Jasmine Mulgrew added one.
The Saints had single goal kickers, with their majors scored by Kate Williams and Fiona Lane.
Coffs Harbour Breakers 8.10 (58) defeated Sawtell Toormina Saints 2.0 (12)