Tigers rip Magpies to shreds
THE Grafton Tigers notched their first win of the North Coast AFL season with an impressive victory over the Port Macquarie Magpies at Ellem Oval, Grafton, on Saturday.
The 23.21.159 to 12.5.77 win was believed to be the Tigers' first against the Magpies in almost 10 years.
In a tight opening quarter Grafton took an early two-goal lead, kicking seven majors to Port's five.
However, it was in the second term Grafton hit its straps.
Young onballer Dale Beaver ran the Magpies players off their feet kicking two of his eight goals, while captain Dan Zacek and Will Darby were marking everything that came their way across half-forward.
At halftime the Tigers had more than doubled the Magpies' score to lead 82-38.
Port Macquarie won the premiership in 2007 and still had a few players from that side as well as a few up and comers like Jesse Smidht, who kicked six goals in a losing side, so it was inevitable that they would come back hard in the third quarter.
Port kicked three of the first four goals of the term to narrow the gap, but Grafton fought back and steadied with a couple of goals midway through the term.
Grafton worked well as a team, running the ball from the halfback line, through the centre of Ellem Oval and kicking long to tall forwards Hugh O'Toole and coach Grahame Blackwell.
If they didn't mark it small forwards Scott Onus (four goals) and Dale Beaver were there to mop up the crumbs and kick Grafton to an eight-goal lead at three-quarter-time.
Blackwell reminded his charges of all the times in the past Port had kicked away to beat them by 15 to 20 goals, and he wanted his men to exact revenge for those drubbings.
The Tigers delivered, with Grafton piling on five goals to Port's one.
Beaver was easily Grafton's best, but there were many players that deserved a mention.
Ruckman Zac Edwards worked tirelessly all day to give the Tigers first use of the ball.
Ryan Sheather, Justin Darby and Bryce Kurtzman were again strong in defence and youngsters Ben Gardner and Jack Walder also showed they will be the future of the club.
The euphoria of the win will not last long, as Grafton's task only gets harder from here.
The Tigers face defending premiers the Sawtell Saints next week - again at Ellem Oval - in a game that will really test their new found confidence.
Sawtell has had an indifferent start to the season, losing its first game against North Coffs in a grand final rematch, before bouncing back well in the last two weeks with good wins over Port Macquarie and Nambucca.