AFL: Finals blockbuster beckons for white-hot Gympie Cats
AUSSIE RULES: Ray Warren Oval received a fitting send-off for season 2018 on Saturday as the Gympie Cats pummelled Across the Waves to finish second on the AFL Wide Bay ladder and set up a mouth-watering finals showdown with the Hervey Bay Bombers.
Patchy form and poor disposal efficiency didn't stop the in-form Cats from doubling the Waves' score at the main break, before a second half demolition job secured them a 72-point victory and a date with the Bombers to determine the first grand final spot.
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An early "rev-up” from coach Courtney Findlay sparked improvement in the team's synergy as the match progressed.
"It was pleasing to get it together towards the back half. They got within four points at one stage but we ended up winning by a big margin. We scored heavily late which was handy,” Findlay said post-match. "I think sometimes in footy you have lapses ... we probably overused the ball a bit early. Once we got back to what we know best in contested ball and transition of the footy, things started to work out for us pretty well.
"They (Waves) came to play too. They had to win today to play finals, so they were up and about. Credit to them, they certainly affected the way we wanted to play early, but we've been training very strongly of late and our fitness shone through towards the back end.”
FINALS WEEK 1 - Saturday August 18
Qualifying Final: Bombers (1st) v Cats (2nd) at Frank Coulthard Oval, Bundaberg, 4pm
Elimination Final: Power (3rd) v Bulldogs (4th) at Keith Dunne Oval, Hervey Bay, 4pm
Usual suspects Lanze Magin, Jesse Lawrence and Scott Stiefler starred in the midfield, while forward duo Bronzen Rowlands and Brad Forbes inflicted the majority of scoreboard damage. Outside midfielder Kimba Rowlands also impressed the coach.
"I was very impressed by Kimba's performance, he's come back from injury very strong and played really well out there today,” Findlay said.
"Magin, Lawrence, and Stiefler were the best three, and Bronno and Forbesy were fantastic too.”
Returning trio Hayden Graham, Jack Cross and Dean Rawlins will cause headaches at the selection table this week, while Linton Congram will be monitored after he finished the game on the sidelines with his boots off.
Findlay said the influential ruckman's early exit was "precautionary”, and the unspecified injury would not rule him out for the Bombers clash.
The AFLWB regular season ended with a three-way tie atop the table, with the Cats and their two Bayside rivals all registering 13 wins and only separated by percentage.
The Bombers' (205.37 per cent) 73-point win over Brothers Bulldogs, combined with their superior defensive consistency, handed them the minor premiership.
The Cats (200.09 per cent) were the highest scoring team all year but leaked too many points to catch the Bombers, while Bay Power's (181.21 per cent) 272-point drubbing of Maryborough was not enough to make up for their late-season hiccups. Gympie enjoyed a 40-point away win over Hervey Bay just a fortnight ago, and defeated the Bombers in both Bayside clashes this season. The Bombers took the points at both Ray Warren Oval games, locking their season series at two apiece.
ROUND 18 - Saturday August 11
Gympie Cats 22.17 (149) defeated Across the Waves Bundaberg 12.5 (77) at Ray Warren Oval
Goal Kickers: B. Rowlands 8, B. Forbes 5, D. Murray 2, K. Rowlands 2, J. Lawrence, K. Kent, S. Stiefler, M. Tonkin, J. Hayes
Best Players: J. Lawrence, L. Magin, S. Stiefler, B. Rowlands, K. Rowlands, J. Hayes
Stay tuned for five reasons why our Cats will beat the Bombers later this week in The Gympie Times.