Injuries hurt brave Tigers
THE Grafton Tigers AFL travelled down the Pacific Highway full of confidence after accounting for the Coffs Swans last weekend, however, injuries to key players broke the spirit of the Tigers as they fell to the Port Macquarie Magpies.
The Tigers always find it difficult to attract players on the long journey to Port but this time was a little different. The Tigers had almost 40 players make the trip, which is an estimate of the renewed vigour and hunger the players now possess. However, a few senior players still had to make up numbers in the reserve grade and vice versa to get the job done.
The Tigers started the contest full of running on the open expanses of Stuart Park. Port kicked the opening goal but the Tigers rallied back to take a one-goal lead at quarter time.
The second term started horribly for Grafton when ruckman Kieran Pascoe succumbed to a hamstring tear. Pascoe had dominated the tap outs and looked in ominous touch.
Port began to win the ball out of the centre after the loss of Pascoe, then things only got worse for the Tigers when star player Daniel Zacek went for a pack mark and landed on his shoulder and dislocated it.
Zacek was taken from the ground and immediately went to hospital where he had x-rays which determined the worst; he will require surgery to repair damaged tendons.
The Tigers lost their direction after the injury to Zacek and really struggled to make any inroads to goal after that.
The Tigers were reduced to no men on the bench with the loss of Zacek and to make matters worse co-captain Justin Darby went down with an ankle injury. Darby contested a mark when he went down awkwardly and rolled his ankle. He was removed from the ground on a stretcher.
Grafton rallied after the loss of the three important players to get one goal back going into half time, but the Magpies had already kicked away and took a handy three-goal lead.
After half time the Tigers never looked the same and the ’Pies took full advantage, kicking 13 goals to 3 to win convincingly 23.9.147 to 9.4.58.
Best players for the Tigers were Damian Cameron, who battled hard in the centre after the loss of Pascoe and Darby, Kodie O’Malley, who combined with coach Grahame Blackwell in the ruck after half time, Ben Gardner, who repelled well at half back and utilized his long kick to set up many early goals, and co-captain Tim Whalan who stood up after the loss of his counterpart Darby.
This leaves a large injury list for the Tigers as they prepare for a must-win clash with the Nambucca Lions in Macksville next week. Both sides are on equal points and will be looking for a win to cement themselves in the top four.
The reserve graders also took on the Magpies at Port and never looked like winning the one-sided contest against a well-performed outfit, going down 15.10.100 to 3.2.20.
In some good news for Tiger fans, the Junior Cubs took on the North Coffs Kangaroos on Sunday and won their second game for the season 45 to 19.
Daniel Zacek (shoulder) season
Kieran Pascoe (hamstring) 2-3 weeks
Justin Darby (ankle) 3-4 weeks
Pat O’Malley (ribs) to be determined
Jarrod Meade (ribs) 1-2 weeks
Joel Sword (hamstring) 2-3 weeks
Allen Henson (shoulder) to be determined
Daniel Smith (groin) to be determined