Finley secures 12th Swan Shield title
FINLEY High School’s fantastic football season concluded last week when it won the NSW Under 15 knockout competition — the Swan Shield.
The Finley Spiders took the title by firstly beating Lisarow High by 62 points in the semi-final, then led all day against defending champions Albury High, running out 29 point winners.
From the first bounce, the Finley boys were switched on and primed to play.
Allister Clarke, Dallas Sibraa, Matt McVeigh and state player Blair Henery gave their forwards first use of the ball, with Kyle Coates quick to pounce with the first goal of the final.
Albury followed soon after, but Mark McQualter, Sibraa and Jess Koopman also added goals to see Finley 4-1 to 1-0 at the first break.
Albury lifted its game in the second quarter, despite Liam Potter doing a brilliant job on their best player.
The home team seemed to be a bit quicker with their leg speed, but outstanding defence from Lachlan Westwood, Sam Miles, Bailey Burke and particularly Rowan Smith, who was playing the game of his life, helped to keep the score in check.
Aidan Murphy-Riddell was providing an excellent contest in the centre, with his clearances vital to Finley maintaining the lead.
But when Jye Holcombe slotted his first goal of the season, followed by Clarke and Coates, the Spiders had extended their lead to 25 points at the main break.
Murphy-Riddell pounced on a loose ball straight after the resumption, as the Spiders’ lead grew and the game threatened to become a blow out.
However, to Albury’s credit, it launched a fightback. The home side kicked the next three goals and the game really tightened up.
Jesse McDonald was proving a vital link at centre half forward or in the ruck, ensuring the ball kept launching into the Spider forward line, but the defence was under huge pressure.
The efforts of Smith and Potter were superb under pressure, with many attacking raids defused.
A late goal to Levi Middleton relieved some pressure, but it was game on. Scores at the final break were Finley 9-4 to Albury 6-3.
After a spray from O&M legend Tim Sanson, Albury came out full of running.
When five minutes of end-to-end footy finished with an Albury goal, the margin was back to 14 points.
Cool heads from Clarke, Henery, Holcombe, Sibraa, Miles and Murphy-Riddell saw the Spiders regain composure when they could have panicked, and some slick passes ended up with Burke goaling.
When Koopman followed it up with an excellent running goal, Finley had one hand on the shield.
Middleton sealed it with a strong mark and straight kick to take the margin out to 29 points.
When the final siren sounded, Finley was in front 12.4 to 7.5, returning the Swan Shield to its rightful home.
This gave the Spiders their 12th title in the 29-year history of the competition.
Best: Rowan Smith, Blair Henery, Allister Clarke, Jye Holcombe, Liam Potter, Kyle Coates.
Goals: Jess Koopman 2, Kyle Coates 2, Levi Middleton 2, Mark McQualter, Dallas Sibraa, Allister Clarke, Jye Holcombe, Aidan Murphy-Riddell, Bailey Burke.
The previous day Finley had convincingly beaten Central Coast school Lisarow to qualify for the final.
Despite seeming rusty from lack of football in recent weeks, the Spiders were steady against a physically bigger and stronger opponent that lacked football awareness.
Rowan Smith was fantastic in defence all day, Dylan Clark did a great job in the key positions down back, and Brodie Newton, Josh Allan and Joe Catena made life hard for the larger Lisarow forwards.
Matt McVeigh, McDonald and Coates did well in the ruck against some monsters, while Luke Congram and Daniel Bryce did some nice work across half forward.
The ever-reliable Henery, Burke, Al Clarke, Miles and Holcombe provided a lot of run on a miserable day.
In the end, the Spiders did enough to run out 62 point winners, 11.10 (76) to 2.2 (14).
Goals went to Sibraa (2), Middleton (2), McQualter (2), Koopman, Henery, Murphy-Riddell, McDonald and Coates.
Rowan Smith was awarded player of the finals for his superb job in the backline in both games.
●●● The 2011 NSW CHS Swan Shield Champion team: Josh Allan, Rowan Smith, Sam Miles, Lachlan Westwood, Liam Potter, Bailey Burke, Jye Holcombe, Blair Henery, Jess Koopman, Levi Middleton, Jesse McDonald, Luke Congram, Kyle Coates, Aidan Murphy-Riddell, Mark McQualter, Matt McVeigh, Allister Clarke, Dallas Sibraa, Joe Catena, Daniel Bryce, Brodie Newton, Dylan Clark.
The team was captained by Allister Clarke, Blair Henery and Jess Koopman.