Saints minor premiers
By PAUL CHAMBERS
IF THIS game was a taste of North Coast AFL finals football then fans should be in for a treat over the next few weeks.
The last weekend of the competition proper could not have asked for a better fixture than this, with the top two teams battling it out for the minor premiership.
Having already fought out two close matches earlier this season, everything pointed towards another very tight game and fans and pundits were not let down.
The winning margin for Sawtell was a decisive 30 points at the final siren but this does Port an injustice as the game was much closer than the score suggests.
The first three quarters were even with Sawtell leading by 11 at the end of the first quarter, seven at half time and 14 at three quarter time.
It was not until the final quarter that the Saints really managed to shake off the challenge from Port once and for all, kicking on with 23 points to seven in the last stanza of the match.
Until that point the Magpies had been hanging on in the game with great determination and effort, coming back into the match time and again just when it seemed that the Saints would pull away from them.
Occasionally their determination went a little too far and some of their challenges for the ball tested the umpires' patience, with unnecessary rough play resulting in several second half free kicks.
This sort of stuff is all part and parcel of football, especially with the minor premiership up for grabs, and just highlights the passion the players showed and their commitment to their club.
In the end the fitness of the Saints, and possibly a greater desire to secure the win, saw them home.
Sawtell are minor premiers, but they will be the first to admit that that means absolutely nothing now that the real football starts.
Finals football is a totally different game where previous results count for nothing.
The Saints might have scored some psychological points today with their victory, but they know anything can happen over the next few weeks.
Coach Russell Matthews was very happy with his team, but refused to get carried away.
"That was a gutsy win today because we were down several key players, so for all the boys to pull together like that was a great effort," he said.
"All the boys have really put in when we have asked them to over the last few weeks and for them to now end up as minor premiers is just great.
"But now the serious business starts, the finals. We know how hard we have worked to earn this and if we are consistent and continue working as hard throughout we will not throw it away."
At the end of the game the result from the North Coffs match came through and their 170 point winning margin, added to Port's loss here, made everyone a little uncertain as to who had secured second spot on the ladder.
Matthews was not really concerned though.
"Whoever we play we know we have already beaten them this season so we will approach any opponent in the same way and focus on our own good, positive play to get us through."
Sawtell Saints 4.0 8.4 12.6 15.11 (101) d Port Magpies 2.1 7.3 10.4 11.5 (71).
Sawtell - Dave Myers (7), David Rava (5), Mark Couzens (2), Rob Zeegers, John Wallace.
Port - C. Roberts (5), D. Geddes (2), J. Harrison, C. Payne, A. Brown, J. Stephens.
Sawtell - Nark Couzens, Damian James, Dean Carey.
Port - D. Geddes, C. Roberts, D. Nankervill.