Wickham in with a chance after victory
Wickham Wolves have kept their premiership hopes alive with a hard fought 19-point victory over Port Hedland Rovers in a thrilling North Pilbara Football League semifinal last weekend.
Playing at home, the Wolves withstood a last quarter Rovers’ fight back to win 10.10 (70) to 7.9 (51).
Wolves president Paul Lott said although it was not the most skilful game, it was played hard.
“Both teams were down on strength a little bit, I would say, Rovers especially, but it was hard fought and physical footy,” he said.
“Wickham had that home ground advantage and used the ball better and kicked to get the goals they needed.
“But all credit to the Rovers; they fought it out in the last quarter and it was a fairly even last term.”
The gritty win keeps the Wolves’ grand final hopes alive as they meet the Dampier Sharks next week in a do-or-die preliminary final with the winner to then meet the South Hedland Swans in the big dance.
The assignment will not be easy for the Wolves as both the Sharks and Swans had emerged as the clearly dominant sides in the last weeks of the regular season.
For the Rovers the loss ends a difficult and disappointing year.
Having dominated the NPFL in recent seasons, the Rovers were last year’s form side, before slipping up in the grand final and finishing runners-up.
This year the team has struggled to put its best team on the park, losing players to the mining sector downturn and work commitments.
That showed early in their clash with the Wolves who jumped out of the gates to take a handy five goal lead into halftime, as they scored 7.5 (49) to the Rovers’ 2.5 (17) for a 39 point lead.
By the end of the third term the margin was still 32 points.
But in a last quarter charge, the Rovers gave the Wolves a mini-scare as they added four goals to the Wolves’ one, though not enough to steal the victory.
Lott praised Wolves’ centreman Mitch Barnes-Butler for his play around the ground as well as Tim Renton, Cameron Cross and forward Beau Alec, who booted four goals.
However, Lott is keenly aware of the challenges ahead.
“Obviously we are going to have to play at our best for four quarters to match Dampier and then get a crack at the Swans,” he said.
“But with a few games to go in the season, we thought we might be struggling to make the finals and then good consistent form got us into third sport with a crack at Dampier.
“So we’re happy where we are at the moment.”
Wickham Wolves’ forward and NPFL leading goal scorer Beau Alec tries to take the contested mark.