By CAMERON SMITH
Southport are one step away from completing the ultimate transformation after they beat Aspley by 37 points in a soggy Preliminary Final at Fankhauser Reserve on Saturday.
The 11.15 (81) to 6.8 (44) victory means the Sharks have gone from finishing ninth last year to hosting the club’s first NEAFL Grand Final in one season.
The main man responsible for this transformation is their new coach, and NEAFL Coach of the Year, Stephen Daniel, who was estatic the minor premiers were able to make it through in trying conditions.
“It’s a really good feeling. We had everything to play for today. The stakes are high so it is a little bit of relief but we have still got to play in the big one,” he told neafl.com.au.
“Against Aspley previously we haven’t had 23 contributors, so today we made it quite clear that in a Prelim if you only have 16 contributors, you are going to lose. Today we had 23 contributors, so win we did.”
Southport took the advantage early in the first quarter on the back of their ability to win the clearances and could’ve been further in front than five points at quarter-time if they had kicked straight.
The Sharks continued to press on in the second quarter, kicking the first goal of the term and locking the ball inside their 50.
However, inaccurate goal kicking kept Aspley in the game, as the Hornets were able to take the ball down the other end and convert.
Aspley were hampered late in the second quarter when Ben Warren went off the ground with a cut to his head after a head clash.
Warren did come back on after half-time, but in the time he was off, Cody Filewood and Mitch Johnson extended Southport’s lead to 21-points.
The ground was very damp all game, because of heavy showers in the morning but it turned into proper wet weather footy in the second half, as the heavens opened up.
Aspley adapted to the conditions better at first with James Ives kicking a goal three minutes into the half.
It didn’t take long for Southport to respond though, with Rob Clements and Wade Hancock – thanks to a deliberate rush behind to Jack Stanley, hitting the scoreboard.
Southport continued to pile on the goals late in the third quarter, taking an unassailable 48-point lead in the last quarter.
Aspley were able to win the last quarter, but it mattered little as the Sharks were able to finish comfortable victors.
Led by Michael Mantiet (30 disposals), Southport’s ability to win the contested ball by 31 was the difference in the end.
Tyler Roos, Andrew Boston and Josh Clayton were also very good in the conditions, while the defenders led by Ryan Davis were excellent.
“Contested ball was spoken about before the game. We thought last time we played Aspley, we got beaten in that area, so is something we wanted to win,” Daniel said.
“In these really trying conditions I thought our bad kicking was going to bite us in the backside, but we just got the job done. I thought our second quarter in particular was really good.”
For Aspley, young-guns Will Gowers and Connor Stackelberg (three goals) continued their good form as defenders Jackson Allen, Henry Joyce and Gavin Grose toiled hard.
Overall though, it was a disappointing day for Aspley who had beaten Southport twice this season.
“Southport played very well. The weather conditions didn’t help us but they were too strong for us physically and their intent and desire to go underneath the contest was really good,” Hornets coach John Blair said.
“We were two wins away from the ultimate but in they were too good for us, I’m afraid, and good luck to them. They are a real chance to win next week.”
Aspley has next year to look forward, whilst the Sharks will host the Swans at Fankhauser Reserve in the Grand Final next week.
PRELIMINARY FINAL 1
Southport Sharks v Aspley Hornets at Fankhauser Reserve
SOUTHPORT 2.5 6.10 11.14 11.15 (81)
ASPLEY 2.0 4.1 5.2 6.8 (44)
GOALS – Southport: C Filewood 3 M Johnson 3 J Hall J Baxter R Clements J Clayton W Hancock. Aspley: C Stackelberg 3 B Warren R Toye J Ives.
BEST – Southport: M Manteit J Turner S Tape T Roos R Davis A Boston. Aspley: B Warren H Joyce J Arnold C Stackelberg J Giles M Payne.
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