Border Mail Semi Finals – Preview
BROCK-BURRUM will be out to restore its reputation as flag favourite when it clashes with a red-hot Osborne in the second semi-final at Walbundrie on Saturday.
Up until round 14, the defending premier was a raging flag favourite, with its only defeat being by seven points against Culcairn in round 2.
But the Saints lost some of their aura of invincibility after suffering late season losses to Holbrook, Osborne and RWW Giants.
Azzi medallist Nico Sedgwick admitted a hint of complacency may have temporarily crept into the Saints’ camp.
“I think our average form over the last month was mental more than anything,” Sedgwick said.
“We thought we had top-two sewn up.
“I know personally I dropped away over the last month and struggled to get a kick.
“Against Howlong we knew we had to win convincingly and we turned up and won by nearly 100 points.”
Sedgwick labelled the Saints performance as their worst for the season.
“It was probably our worst performance of the season,” he said.
“Mentally, we didn’t come to play and they spread really well from the contest.
“Our midfield is totally different and is more like a bull at a gate.
“It’s more see footy, get footy.
“Osborne just had one bloke at the contest and the rest sit out and they transition really well into their forward line.
“We’ll certainly have to be a bit smarter around the footy on the weekend.”
It’s no secret the Saints get a lot of their midfield drive from Sedgwick who dines out on the silver service provided by ruckman Matt Seiter.
The dynamic duo struggled to assert their usual influence against the Tigers after Izaac McDonnell successfully tagged Sedgwick.
Sedgwick is eager to square the ledger on Saturday.
“He ran with me all day and actually gave me a bit of a touch-up,” he said.
“I’ll get him again for sure on the weekend.
“I’ve been training a bit different for the last three weeks because I knew we would be playing Osborne.
“Hopefully it pays dividends and I can provide a bit more outside run.”
Sedgwick revealed he has spent the majority of the past month predominantly up forward.
“I just wanted to give my body a rest both physically and mentally,” he said.
“I only weigh 70kg and I try and play like I’m 100kg and it takes a bit of a toll on the body.”
Saturday, September 7
Osborne v Brock-Burrum
Sunday, September 8
At Urana Road Oval
Culcairn v Holbrook
(Former Brock-Burrum coach)
(The Border Mail)
(Holbrook life member)
Young Holbrook speedster Ewan Mackinlay’s season is in doubt after he injured his elbow last Friday night.
Mackinlay was in the gym when a punching bag fell and landed on his arm.
He has kicked nine goals in the seniors and 30 in the under-17s this season.
All eyes will be on Urana Road Oval on Sunday.
A bumper crowd is set to turn out for the clash between arch rivals Culcairn and Holbrook with the ground’s capacity to host the clash set to come under the microscope.
Almost $5000 was taken at the gate when the clubs played earlier in the season.
The league has stated the match is a “trial” with feedback to determine next year’s finals fixturing.
While the Billabong Crows dropped out of the premiership race in the seniors last weekend, the club’s reserves are up and about.
It is believed four players can drop back including star goalkicker Nick Brockley.
Brockley has played eight senior matches since crossing from Rutherglen mid-season.
Theoretically, Holbrook should be watching Sunday’s first semi-final at Urana Road Oval from the sidelines.
But someone obviously forgot to tell the Brookers.
The Brookers will instead head into Sunday’s clash against arch rival Culcairn chock-full of confidence after notching 10 wins, two losses and a draw from their past 13 matches.
Brookers key forward, Andrew Dear, attributes the stunning turnaround to coach Matt Sharp who never doubted his charges.
“Right from the start of pre-season, Sharpy has instilled a level of belief in us,” Dear said.
“He believes in us and we believe in what he is trying to do.
“We probably didn’t play to the standard we were capable of early and paid the price.
“We ended up having a fairly open and honest chat after round six and a few home truths were aired.
“We were at the crossroads and could have easily went through the motions for the rest of the season.
“But we decided we wanted to dig in deep and try and make something of the season and play finals.”
The Brookers will enter the clash as underdogs after the Lions won both clashes so far this season.
“Culcairn have knocked us of twice and deserve to be favourites,” he said.
“But we are confident our best footy is capable of matching anyone.
“A recent win against Brock-Burrum and a draw against Osborne proves that.”
Dear arrived from Holbrook this season from Tallangatta where he had spent the previous four years.
The strong marking forward said it didn’t take him long to learn about the fierce rivalry between the two neighbouring clubs.
“From the day I arrived at the club, everyone has pumped up this rivalry with Culcairn and how much they dislike them,” he said.
“Especially the stalwarts around the club like Bert Haynes who often comes down to training to remind us what he thinks of Culcairn.
“You soon get an understanding of how big the rivalry is and how much it would mean to our supporters if we could knock them off.
“There was a huge crowd last time we played and it will be bigger again on Sunday.”
CULCAIRN’S midfield maestro Jye Shields believes the tight confines of Urana Road Oval will favour the Lions ahead of Sunday’s first semi-final showdown with Holbrook.
The in-form Brookers have notched 10 wins and a draw from their past 13 matches mainly through the hard-running of Will and Lachie Holmes, Corey McCarthy and Luke Carmen.
The Lions won’t lack any confidence against their fiercest rival after already notching two comfortable victories this season.
They inflicted the Brookers most recent defeat in round 15 in front of a massive crowd at Culcairn.
Shields said the smaller ground played into the hands of the Lions.
“It’s no secret Holbrook are a young, quick side who thrive on space,” Shields said.
“The smaller ground will make it a lot more physical which suits us.
“I know most of the Cul boys are happy with the venue.”
The Lions were forced to dig deep last Saturday to overcome a spirited Billabong Crows.
Several Lions looked worse for wear including high profile recruit Adam Prior (ankle) and Shields (corked thigh) who played predominantly forward and kicked a crucial goal at the start of the final term.
“A few of us copped a few knocks but nothing too serious,” he said.
“Obviously the focus this week at training has been on recovery and everybody is doing the right thing and will be raring to go by Sunday.”
Shields is in his fourth season with the Lions since crossing from Kiewa Sandy Creek.
The silky skilled midfielder has proven to be one of the finest recruits in the competition after finishing runner-up in the Azzi medal for the past two seasons.
The 25-year-old is favourite to win the award this year after producing the best season of his career to date.
Shields said the rivalry between Culcairn and Holbrook was still as fierce as it had been over the past few decades.
“It’s funny, every time we play Holbrook a lot of former players come down to training on the Thursday night,” he said.
“They stay for tea at the clubrooms and tell you stories about how much they despise the Brookers.
“It’s hard to explain but everyone seems a lot more on edge and it’s a different feeling.”
Former Howlong coach Beau Packer casts his eye over this weekend’s semi-finals between Osborne and Brock-Burrum as well as Culcairn and Holbrook. He was asked the big questions by The Border Mail’s BRETT KOHLHAGEN about how they could play out.
BK: Brock-Burrum’s form has been patchy leading into the finals. How do you think the reigning premier is travelling?
BK: People thought Osborne might be in trouble when ruckman Jamie Parr went down with a knee injury. It hasn’t turned out that way has it?
BP: They have held up really well considering how big a loss Jamie is, not only with his ability, but his leadership across the ground. Matty Rava (Osborne coach) has done a great job getting his players to fill the void.
BK: I presume you hadn’t been to Osborne before you went out to coach Howlong. What were first impressions of the footy club in the middle of nowhere?
BP: I had only been out that way once before to watch a good mate play a few years back. Driving in and seeing nothing but a footy ground was interesting. The Osborne Football Club has got a great reputation as a family club, which is evident by the supporters that watch their games and how many people they have in their club rooms after matches.
BK: Matt Seiter has had another big season and must be in the mix to winthe Azzi medal. How important is he to the outcome?
BP: The big fella certainly has a fair say in whether the Saints win or lose. When he is up and about he is probably the most influential player in the competition. (Nico) Sedgwick, (Luke) Schilg and the Boulton boys (Ronnie and Joe) would love having ‘Goof’ around the ball with his size and aggression making him a hard prospect for Osborne to keep quiet.
BK: Who has impressed you the most at Osborne?
BP: Across the park they have key players everywhere, down back Duncan McMaster leads a solid back line. Through the midfield they have some serious talent with the Galvin’s (Connor and Clancy) and Sam Livingston has been a great pickup. Marty Bahr is a workhorse and Rava is a great leader. Up forward, George Alexander and Kodie O’Malley give them great targets. Some real match-winners there.
BK: Who wins and why?
BP: After playing Brock-Burrum only a few weeks ago and seeing them in full flight, it’s hard to go past them. I have said it all year, they have incredible depth and a real spread of match-winners. Up forward they don’t rely on one key forward, but rather have a multi-pronged attack that work hard for each other. It will be a tight contest but I’d expect the Saints to advance straight through to the grand final.
BK: Has the league made the right decision playing this match at Urana Road Oval?
BP: I think it is great to have the match in town and should be something other clubs strive for. I know Howlong will be pushing hard for a final next season when the new clubrooms have been constructed. Trying something different and having the game in town may encourage more neutral supporters to have a look, so it has to be a win-win situation
BK: The general consensus is that Holbrook is one of the quickest sides in the league. Culcairn must be rapt the match is being played on the smaller Urana Road Oval?
BP: Being a smaller ground at Urana Road will make the game a lot more congested. Both teams have some big-bodied midfielders who will match up well and thrive on the contested ball. Holbrook tend to push their defenders up high to really block up the space, which will suit them defensively. If Culcairn can use the footy well, they could hurt them the other way.
BK: How big a blow would it be for the Lions if Adam Prior doesn’t come up?
BP: Any team that is missing a bloke who kicked 99 goals in the season would be a huge blow to their chances. Not only does he take the best defender, but he draws other opposition defenders to the contest, which frees up Culcairn’s other forwards to do some damage. Even half fit, Adam could contribute strongly to the team and provide a contest for his other forwards to work off, especially on the shorter ground.
BK: Prior and Dennis Pedemont didn’t kick a goal for Culcairn last weekend and they still won. Is that a worry or a good thing for Josh Hillary?
BP: Josh would be happy they got the job done without either of the boys kicking a goal, but I doubt he would want it to happen again. If they are well held by the Brookers’ defence, Culcairn will have to find other avenues to goal. Jye Shields had to go forward last week when Adam went down, so that may happen again to provide another focal point in attack.
BK: Is it hard to match up on Holbrook because it has so many local kids who slip under the radar?
BP: Matty Sharp has got some great young talent on his list and has developed a game plan to suit his team. Unlike Culcairn who rely heavily on their top-line players the Brookers have an even spread of players and will need all 21 to play well to get over the line.
BK: Who wins and why?
BP: A lot will depend on if Adam Prior lines up for the Lions. He is structurally so important to how they set up. If he misses, I feel they will have to plug the hole he will leave up forward, which will hurt them in other areas. On the smaller ground, and with their dominant midfield and Prior in, I’d say Culcairn in a tight one.