A class above

Hawks soar into an­other pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal with a big win

The Cobram Courier - - SPORT - By Pa­trick Tansey

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.’’

Pic­ture: Jackie Vo­gel

The dif­fer­ence: Star turn Cameron Cloke had a field day against Fin­ley in Ba­rooga’s 51-point qual­i­fy­ing fi­nal win, boot­ing six ma­jors.

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