In­juries a big blow to Tigers

The Cobram Courier - - SPORT - By Pa­trick Tansey

So close, yet so far. It was that sort of day for Co­bram on Satur­day as it bravely went down to reign­ing premier Nathalia by 20 points in its qual­i­fy­ing fi­nal at Hardinge St Oval, De­niliquin.

The 14.9 (93) to 10.13 (73) de­feat to the Pur­ples would have left the young Tigers feel­ing a range of emo­tions post-game.

On one hand, they could be proud of their fight­ing ef­forts, for not rolling over when it looked for all the money that Nathalia would sweep them aside af­ter tak­ing a 27-point leader into quar­ter-time.

But on the other hand, the Tigers would re­alise this was an op­por­tu­nity lost af­ter lead­ing by a goal at half­time.

It’s not of­ten the Pur­ples are chal­lenged in the way they were Satur­day af­ter­noon by a hun­gry and re­silient Co­bram out­fit.

The Tigers were in the game up to their necks, but in the end Nathalia’s ex­pe­ri­ence, fi­nals know-how and health­ier bench proved the great­est dif­fer­ence be­tween the two teams.

Lead­ing in, the nar­ra­tive un­der­pin­ning this match was as in­ter­est­ing as the con­test it­self.

Here was a young Co­bram team, not yet fully aware of its own ca­pa­bil­i­ties and very much in a de­vel­op­men­tal phase, com­ing up against the Mur­ray Foot­ball League’s dom­i­nant force of the past decade — a peren­nial win­ner and finely-tuned ma­chine in Nathalia.

Many pun­dits would have ex­pected a blow-out, but this was no mis­match.

With a strong breeze howl­ing down Nathalia’s end in the first term, Co­bram’s de­fence was put to the test early but did well to re­strict the Pur­ples to five ma­jors.

‘‘I wouldn’t say they jumped us, but they tried to put their stamp on the game early with their phys­i­cal­ity and ag­gres­sion at the foot­ball,’’ Co­bram coach Josh Noo­nan said.

‘‘They were first to the foot­ball and just seemed to have more num­bers at the con­test.’’

The Tigers found a way back into the game in the sec­ond term by crank­ing up the pres­sure on Nathalia, forc­ing the Pur­ples into a host of un­char­ac­ter­is­tic mis­takes.

‘‘We started do­ing the lit­tle things right and got our hands on the footy. We got back into the game by play­ing the Co­bram brand of footy that we wanted to play,’’ Noo­nan said.

Af­ter en­joy­ing a six-point lead at half-time, the onus was on the Tigers to slow down Nathalia’s ball move­ment and limit its scor­ing con­sid­er­ing the Pur­ples again had the ben­e­fit of the breeze.

Co­bram did well, again keep­ing Nathalia to five goals, while it man­aged to sneak two goals of its own to make the mar­gin a very get­table 11 points with the breeze in its favour in the last quar­ter.

Af­ter stem­ming the bleed­ing rea­son­ably well in the third, Co­bram was hit by a se­ri­ous an­kle in­jury to mid­fielder Lance Crowe, which seemed to sap the Tigers’ spirit.

It was a sav­age blow for the Tigers as it left them an­other player short on the bench af­ter also los­ing de­fend­ers Steve Smith and Nathan Hart­ley to in­jury dur­ing the game.

With Crowe down, the al­ready dif­fi­cult chal­lenge to kick away sud­denly be­came a moun­tain­ous task for Co­bram.

‘‘I thought we had enough in our tank in the last quar­ter to per­haps run over them, but in the end we were pretty short on the bench and didn’t have enough legs to run out the game,’’ a dis­ap­pointed Noo­nan said.

Although the re­sult didn’t go Co­bram’s way, Noo­nan could not fault the ap­pli­ca­tion of his troops.

‘‘The ef­fort was fan­tas­tic from the boys all day,’’ he said.

‘‘At times our skill ex­e­cu­tion and de­ci­sion mak­ing let us down, but to put a team like Nathalia on the back foot and make them sec­ond guess them­selves is prob­a­bly the big­gest thing we can take out of it.

‘‘The young kids weren’t put off, they took it in their stride.’’

Co­bram will take a lot of con­fi­dence from its strong show­ing against the mi­nor premier when it trav­els to Lons­dale Re­serve in Mul­wala on Satur­day to face Nu­murkah, who it de­feated only a few weeks ago, in the first semi-fi­nal.

‘‘Our plan­ning will prob­a­bly be pretty sim­i­lar to last time, but ob­vi­ously we will know a lit­tle bit more about them this time,’’ Noo­nan said.

‘‘We will con­tinue to play our brand of foot­ball.

‘‘We are def­i­nitely good enough to beat them, it will just de­pend on whether or not we can be con­sis­tent across the four quar­ters.’’

Pic­tures: Steve Hunt­ley

Leader of the pack: Co­bram’s Alex King hunts the foot­ball against Nathalia.

Stuck in the mid­dle: Tiger Sam Beasley is the meat in the sand­wich in a mark­ing con­test.

Straight shooter: Co­bram for­ward Darcy McCor­mack shoots for goal.

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