The Coffs Swans started with a vengeance and then had to hold off a fast-finishing Port Macquarie in the second semi-final of t
The Coffs Swans started with a vengeance and then had to hold off a fast-finishing Port Macquarie in the second semi-final of t

High-flying Swans

By CHRIS McKINLEY

FOR Charles Dickens it was a talke of two cities, in the second semi-final of the AFL North Coast competition it was a tale of two halves, one in complete contrast to the other.

The Swans advanced to the grand final with a nail biting four point victory but an hour before the final siren sounded a cliffhanger finish was the last thing on most peoples minds.

An inspired opening term from the Swans saw them burst out to a 37 point lead and by the main break the advantage was extended to 48 points and most were wondering how large the final margin would be.

Jay Guthrie was running rampant through the midfield kicking four first-half goals, Tristan Snow chimed in with three of his own and 16 year-old Jeremy Ward was dominating on his wing.

Port's Jon Stephens was winning nearly every ruck contest but it mattered little as it was the Swans who were getting the vital clearances.

For the Swans it was a happy change as playing coach Jeff Reed has been asking all year why his team were slow out of the blocks week after week.

After half time it was like two different teams had taken to the field such was the change that came over the contest.

The Magpies started running and moving the ball both quicker and longer.

Suddenly it was the Port midfielders in Daniel Butterfield, Shannon Skreja, Scott Payne and captain-coach Matt Newton who were collecting possessions everywhere.

Moving Jon Stephens to the forward line created another focal point and although the margin was dwindled down to a still challenging 30 points at the final break, it was obvious the momentum of the match shifted.

With a minute remaining Port had a chance to steal the game from like a thief in the night.

Swans diminutive rover Matt Lane had played well all day but a bad turnover close to goal landed in the waiting arms of Butterfield.

A goal would've put the Magpies in front right on the death knell but to the relief of Swans supporters, Butterfield missed the difficult shot at goal.

Reed was a visibly relieved coach afterwards and he was grateful that his team had worked out how to get off to a fast start.

"For the first time this year everyone was up and ready," he said.

"We had a few moves today that worked, sometimes they don't work but today they did and the bounce of the ball went our way. "Then again it was a final. If you can't get yourself up in a final you're never going to get yourself up."

Obviously disappointed at getting so close to victory, Port's captain-coach Matt Newton was left to rue a tardy opening term with the rest of the playing group.

Addressing his players immediately after the match, Newton tried to highlight the positives he saw but it all came back to the slow start for him.

"I think we rolled up today thinking we're playing in a grand final and this is just matchplay before the grand final," he said.

"They wanted the ball and they wanted to win and that's how they came out.

"Our heads are up though because after half time when I asked people to play our game of footy, we did that and we outscored them but it's nowhere near good enough in a final to play half a game."



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