A class above
Hawks soar into another preliminary final with a big win
Barooga will play off in a second consecutive preliminary final after blowing away Finley in the second half of its qualifying final under Saturday night lights at Finley Recreational Reserve.
The 51-point victory was a powerful display by the Hawks against a tricky opponent that has improved markedly from last year.
While the margin was comprehensive in the end, the first half was anything but comfortable for Barooga.
A 13-goal shoot-out between the two teams in the first quarter ensured fans were getting their money’s worth.
The match tightened up in the second term and it had all the hallmarks of finals football, with the intensity around the contest enormous and possessions at a premium.
Barooga co-coach Nick Flanagan felt it took a while for his side to adapt to the night conditions, but said the tide began to turn in the Hawks’ favour late in the second quarter.
‘‘It was pretty dewy underfoot being a night game and it probably took our guys a little while to adjust to the different conditions, even with the yellow footy which doesn’t carry through the air quite as well as the red footy does during the day,’’ Flanagan said.
‘‘I sort of felt the momentum swing our way a little bit in the last 10 minutes of the second quarter. We were just starting to win a few more one-on-ones and started to move the footy a bit cleaner and crisper.’’
The Hawks led by 19 points at half-time and took that momentum into the second half, going in for the kill.
Barooga refused to take the foot off the gas, slamming through seven majors to Finley’s two after half-time.
‘‘After half-time we really broke the game open,’’ Flanagan said.
‘‘Tyrone Downie kicked two, (Cameron) Cloke kicked two and Cam Sandral intercepted a kick and ran in and kicked another goal and that sort of all happened within 10 to 12 minutes of the third quarter starting.’’
While big-name recruit Cloke stole the headlines with six goals in attack, Flanagan said the other end of the ground was equally impressive.
‘‘Our half-back line in particular all had really strong games, while our midfield was able to get on top as the game wore on,’’ he said.
In an ominous warning to the teams still in the premiership hunt, Flanagan believes Barooga’s star-studded forward line is only just beginning to click.
‘‘It has taken us a little while to get the chemistry right between Matt Demaio, Downie and Cloke, but I think it is starting to click and they’re beginning to get some familiarity with one another,’’ he said.
‘‘To get 10 goals between the three of them on the weekend was a good return.’’
Besides Cloke and Downie (three goals), captain Cal Leighton-Daly was the Hawks’ other instrumental player on the night and his coach was full of praise for his performance.
‘‘Cal is the sort of player that is made for finals. He’s a strong body but he’s got a great balance between inside and outside with his game,’’ Flanagan said.
‘‘I think he’s one of the elite midfielders in the comp, there’s no doubt about that.’’
The Hawks will now enjoy a weekend off before taking on the winner of Saturday’s first semifinal between Cobram and Numurkah in a preliminary final.
While Barooga made it to the same point last season before being knocked out by Nathalia, Flanagan believes his troops are much better placed this time around.
‘‘I think we are in a better position this year in terms of the health of our list. I think we limped into the prelim last year, so to get the week off and charge into it with a pretty fresh list is exciting,’’ he said.
‘‘James Hazelman didn’t play on the weekend because of illness and he’ll be back in, while Cam Sudholz played in the reserves and Tom McNeill will be available for the prelim as well, so we are in pretty good shape and in good form as well.’’
The difference: Star turn Cameron Cloke had a field day against Finley in Barooga’s 51-point qualifying final win, booting six majors.