Crocs fi­nal tar­get as Saints de­feat Cut­ters

The Cairns Post - - SPORT - JORDAN GERRANS

FI­NALLY, it is the grand fi­nal we have all been wait­ing for.

Af­ter be­ing clearly the best two teams in the AFL Cairns com­pe­ti­tion for the whole of 2018, Cairns Saints have ad­vanced to the de­cider with an eye to stop­ping Port Dou­glas’ pre­mier­ship run this Satur­day af­ter­noon.

It has been a run­ning joke within lo­cal foot­ball cir­cles that the sea­son should just fast-for­ward to the grand fi­nal — such was the gulf be­tween Saints and Port Dou­glas and the rest of the com­pe­ti­tion.

Saints were forced to go the long way to the grand fi­nal, but with a glut of play­ers re­turn­ing from in­jury, they re­gained some of their best form they had shown ear­lier in the sea­son, end­ing South Cairns’s sea­son in the pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal.

In­jury luck has not been on Saints side of late and it got worse for them on Satur­day as mid­field­ers Joel New­man and Aaron Mul­lane fin­ished the game with arms in slings. The duo are in doubt to face the Round 15 Port Dou­glas 16.11 (107) d Cairns Saints 15.12 (102) Round 6 Cairns Saints 17.7 (109) d Port Dou­glas 15.6 (96) Crocs in the big dance. The Cazalys Sta­dium fi­nals breeze was on show as Saints kicked six goals with it in the first term, Cut­ters four in the sec­ond, three for Saints in the third be­fore run­ning de­fender Kieran Da­ley slammed the door shut on the Cut­ters early in the last term with a big goal into the breeze. Af­ter be­ing bun­dled out early in 2016 and miss­ing fi­nals in 2017, Saints play­ing­coach Tim Lam­prill is proud of his play­ing group’s growth and de­vel­op­ment this sea­son.

“It has been a build­ing process and we have put a new game plan in place and tried to get it go­ing, we are fi­nally start­ing to reap the re­wards now,” Lam­prill said.

“The boys are re­ally un­der­stand­ing it now; it is be­com­ing sec­ond na­ture in­stead of me hav­ing to bark for them to do things.”

Saints for­ward Tom El­tring­ham made his much-an­tic­i­pated re­turn from in­jury and was pushed fur­ther up the ground, in­stead of his usual role in­side the goal square.

Both clubs pulled late changes from the teams they named ear­lier in the week, Cut­ters skip­per James Dixon miss­ing with a ham­string in­jury while Cameron Johns for Saints did not get up with a quad com­plaint.

Johns, a dis­tribut­ing de­fender, is a strong chance to re­turn for the grand fi­nal.

The waste­ful Cut­ters should have been closer at the long break and coach John Tootell ex­pects some of his veter­ans to call time on their se­nior ca­reers.

“The game got away from us in the first quar­ter and we were al­ways on the back foot from there,” Tootell said.

“There is prob­a­bly two or three that will hang them up from se­nior footy.”

Pic­ture: JUSTIN BRIERTY

AG­GRES­SIVE CON­TEST: Saints’ Ryan Field­ing tries to stop Souths’ Dwayne Bosen in the 2018 AFL Cairns Se­niors con­test at Cazalys Sta­dium.

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