By CHARLIE GOODSIR
The Canberra Demons, the newest side and also one of the youngest in the NEAFL, are determined to defy the odds in 2018.
In their first ever NEAFL finals series, the Demons are just one win away from making it to the 2018 NEAFL Grand Final. All that stands in their way is a tough Sydney Swans outfit on Saturday.
The Demons will return to Blacktown, the site of their famous nine-point win over the much-fancied Sydney University in last week’s first Elimination Final.
Now that the adrenaline from that victory has died down, all focus is on the task at hand for the Demons.
“Considering our last four weeks it was good to knock them (Sydney University) off,” Canberra player-coach Kade Klemke told neafl.com.au.
“Understanding that though, we now have another game to go.”
Despite finishing in sixth position at the end of the regular season after a disappointing final month, Canberra have arguably had their greatest season ever in the NEAFL.
Since joining the comp in 2016, the Demons have steadily improved from ninth place in their first year to narrowly missing the finals last year and now in 2018 being on the cusp of a maiden Grand Final berth.
One of the many highlights of the season was the eight-game winning streak in the middle of the year that saw the Demons atop the NEAFL ladder for the first time in their history.
From Rounds 7 to Round 18, they beat many fancied teams along the way including defending premiers Brisbane, the GIANTS, Aspley and for the first time in their history defeated Sydney Uni which would then give them the confidence to complete their Elimination Final heroics.
Canberra’s incredible streak was largely on the back of 2018 NEAFL Rising Star Mitch Maguire’s stellar debut season, and in particular his purple patch in the middle of the year that not only catapulted Demons to first on the ladder but also saw him lead the NEAFL MVP votes before voting was withheld from the public after Round 16.
Maguire polled the fourth highest votes at the end of the count which is a remarkable feat for a 20-year-old second-year player.
At the NEAFL MVP Awards Ceremony, Mitch Maguire said he was incredibly happy and proud to share his football journey with the Canberra Demons.
“I’m happy going out each week and playing my role with Demons,” he said when collecting the NEAFL Rising Star Award. “(Finals) is really exciting…everyone is super excited to give it a real crack.”
Maguire was the catalyst in the last week’s Elimination Final victory in which he amassed an incredible 45 disposals along with 10 tackles, five clearances and five inside 50s.
Even though Maguire was exceptional last week, Klemke said Canberra doesn’t rely on the strengths of one player.
“He’s a massive part of our team but you can’t win a game of footy off of one bloke,” he said.
“You have to have everyone and there are little things that we really like to focus on, like those one-percenters.
“That’s the most pleasing thing I see as a coach.”
Klemke is in a unique position within the NEAFL as not only is he a player but also the coach and is able to see the tactics, structures and performances of his players right in the action.
Klemke said in the week leading up to last week’s Elimination Final, he employed new structures and tactics for the match.
“We decided to change things up at the start of the week because we knew that if we put up the same performance and played the same structurally that we probably weren’t going to beat Sydney Uni,” he said.
“We changed it up and we had been working on something different all week and we told the group to stick to the plan…pressure was absolutely the key to it.”
The bold strategy to establish a brand new game style the week before a proved a masterstroke from Klemke.
An excellent first half that was built on pressure and tackling set up the brilliant win against the Students and it will be more than likely that Canberra will bring that same game plan against the Swans.
Klemke firmly believes that his side can stack up against any of the remaining teams in the competition.
“The Swans and Southport are the only sides we haven’t beaten this year but we will go in with a plan and if we bring that pressure and those one-percenters then we have a really good chance to win,” he said.
Canberra takes on Sydney from 11.30am at Blacktown on Saturday.
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