Fal­cons fi­nally in big dance

Geelong Advertiser - - SPORT - DAMIEN RACTLIFFE

RE­LIEF was one of the over­rid­ing emo­tions af­ter the Gee­long Fal­cons stormed into their first TAC Cup grand fi­nal since 2000 with a run­away 13.14 (92) to 7.11 (53) pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal win against Dan­de­nong at Si­monds Sta­dium yes­ter­day.

Coach Daniel O’Keefe, who cap­tained the Fal­cons as an 18-year-old in 2006, said he had “un­fin­ished busi­ness” he wanted to com­plete af­ter the club’s 17-year grand fi­nal drought was bro­ken.

“It feels both amaz­ing but also a bit of a re­lief as well,” O’Keefe said.

“There was a bit of ex­pec­ta­tion on this group and so there should be, purely be­cause we’ve got a lot of tal­ent within the group and we feel like we can go a long way in­ter­nally.

“Me as a Fal­con, I missed out on play­ing in the pre­lim due to in­jury. We lost two fi­nals in my year in 2006.

“Now to come back and win two fi­nals, there’s that un­fin­ished busi­ness that we’re try­ing to com­plete here.”

The Fal­cons trailed by 12 points at the main break but played with dare and pur­pose in a defin­ing third term that saw them snare six of the next seven goals to open a 21-point lead go­ing into the fi­nal change.

The key mes­sage was com­po­sure and the home side cleaned up its ball use to slice its way through the St­ingrays in the sec­ond half.

Cas­sidy Par­ish led the charge with 14 dis­pos­als in the third quar­ter and fit­tingly kicked the sealer 15 min­utes into the fi­nal term to give his side a 34-point lead.

He fin­ished with 32 touches, while Cooper Stephens (30) and Ethan Floyd (28) were also busy.

Gryan Miers was pro­lific with three goals and had a hand in al­most half a dozen more, while Lachie No­ble chipped in with three ma­jors.

“We spoke at half­time about care and com­po­sure with the ball and we hadn’t been in a po­si­tion this year purely be­cause of lack of skill,” O’Keefe said.

“In the box, we felt ev­ery­thing was go­ing right. We were just turn­ing the ball over and giv­ing it back to them.

“If the play­ers didn’t have self-be­lief be­fore to­day, I think they’d have to now.”

The Fal­cons meet San­dring­ham Dragons in next Sun­day night’s de­cider at Eti­had Sta­dium, with Gee­long set to go in as favourite.

“We’ll do ev­ery­thing in our pos­si­ble pow­ers to get these boys ready to go and I feel like if these boys turn up to play like they did to­day or last week, they’re go­ing to be hard to beat,” O’Keefe said.

MADE IT: Gee­long Fal­cons’ Lach­lan No­ble and Tom McCartin cel­e­brate. Pic­ture: MARK WIL­SON

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