Josh Sheather snatches the ball during an earlier game this season between the Grafton Tigers and Port Macquarie.
Josh Sheather snatches the ball during an earlier game this season between the Grafton Tigers and Port Macquarie. JoJo Newby

Tigers have first grand final shot

FOR the first time in the competition’s history, AFL North Coast’s geographical bookends, Grafton and Port Macquarie, will meet in the second semi-final at BCU International Stadium this afternoon, with the winner straight into the grand final in a fortnight.

This is Grafton’s first foray into the senior finals, while Port Macquarie is a regular in the playoffs.

That is sure to be an advantage to the southern Magpies despite the fact they have not beaten Grafton this season.

Port has an excellent team, which contains 11 players named recently in the Magpies’ team of the past decade.

While some of those, like Damon Munt, Shannon Skreja, Scott Payne, Clayton Miechel and Matt Newton, are nearing the twilight of their careers, they are still formidable talents.

Some of those older legs will struggle on the big stadium oval but they will not lack experience.

For the Tigers it will be first time for most of this team at the stadium and that lack of experience could be a telling factor.

The Tigers have dominated the competition and have undoubtedly the best attack in the league. Shawn Purton, Daniel Zacek, Dale Beaver and Evan Duyrea are all multiple goal kickers and blessed with silky skills.

Beaver is an amazing talent and I urge footy followers to get out and watch his bag of tricks.

The ruck contest between the Tigers’ Grahame Connelly and Magpies’ Dean Nankivell will be a ripper. Both have outstanding leaps.

Port boasts the best defence on paper, led by Greg Dean and Craig Dicker, while the midfield looks pretty even, with Sam Morrison and Ron Davis well matched against ’Pies opponents Matt Lill, Skreja and Haydyn Kennedy.

Ryan Sheather and Justin and Will Darby will have big jobs to hold Port forwards Newton, Jessie Schmidt and Munt and that is probably where the contest will be decided.

If the Grafton defenders can hold this trio to less than three goals each the Tigers should be first through to the grand final.

However, as Port coach Scott Payne observed this week: “Everyone knows that the competition starts again once the finals roll around.”

This will be a close, hard contest throughout.

We have already seen one upset, with the Swans being given an early exit last week, and maybe another is brewing.

TODAY’S MATCHES

Seniors 2.30pm: Grafton v Port Macquarie

Reserves 12.50pm: Port Macquarie v Sawtell

Under-18 11am: Port Macquarie v North Coffs

Played at BCU International Stadium



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