THE New Norfolk Reserves team has booked a spot in this weekend’s SFL preliminary final against the Huonville Lions at North Hobart Oval after a tough hard-fought 10-point victory against the Dodges Ferry Sharks in the first semi-final at Lindisfarne on Saturday.
The Eagles held a narrow lead at every change and had a key focal point up forward in experienced veteran Rohan Heron, who marked strongly at crucial stages of the game and bagged five goals in a match-winning performance.
The Sharks opened their account with a goal to big burly forward Andrew Press, but the Eagles answered through Heron for his first goal from the true centre-half-forward position 40m out. Both sides entered their forward 50 zone several times in the quarter but both backlines were on top early which made scoring difficult. Eagle backman Brett Hodge made several clearances from the backline and had the job on Sharks veteran forward Brent Dolliver while Eagle Nathan Ford was pitted against forward Andrew Press.
The Eagles snagged another major late in the quarter when onballer Jack Hills short passed to Eagle forward Clint Curtain who received a free kick on a tight angle to give the Eagles a five-point lead at quarter time. Scores were New Norfolk 2.2 (14) to Dodges Ferry 1.3 (9).
Early in the second term a Sharks defender found himself under pressure deep in the Eagles forward line with an errant handball going straight to Eagle Clinton Curtain who made no mistake booting his second to give the Eagles a 12-point lead. Minutes later the Sharks hit back with two quick goals to reduce the lead to just one point with Mark Cusick and Brent Dolliver looking dangerous in the Sharks forward line.
The Eagles worked the footy forward and found Heron with a great pick up at ground level and a quick snap through the big sticks to give the Eagles a seven-point lead. Eagle youngsters Rohan Thomason and Tyler Purdon were busy for the quarter with some good work from the Eagles back half. Half time scores were New Norfolk 4.6 (30) to Dodges Ferry 3.6 (24).
Heron added another two goals early in the third term to give the Eagles an 18-point lead. The Sharks hit back and were more direct in attack in the latter part of the quarter with goals to Jeremy Pepper and Dolliver as the contest tightened. The crowd in attendance was set for an exciting last term. Three-quarter-time scores were New Norfolk 6.7 (43) to Dodges Ferry 5.8 (38).
The Sharks looked busy early in the all-important last quarter and went deep into attack on several occasions. However, the Eagle defence stood tall led by Luke Browning who marked and cleared the footy at some key moments. Goals to Jordan Eiszele and another from Heron from a 50m penalty and the Eagles were back out to a 19-point break at the 15-minute mark.
The Sharks continued to press forward kicking a few minor scores and a late goal, but the Eagles held on for a hard fought 10-point win. Big Corey Ransley battled hard all day for the Eagles. Brett Hodge was solid on the backline and Torne Tangata continues to repeat his great form week in week out. Jack Hills was busy all day and Luke Browning was where he needed to be at crucial stages of the game.
The Eagles must now focus on the Huonville Lions who were defeated by the Lindisfarne Two Blues in the other semi-final for a ticket into the grand final. The Eagles will face the Lions on neutral territory at the home of Tassie football the North Hobart Oval this Saturday. They must find some more avenues to goal and apply more scoreboard pressure early in the contest to take the next step.
Can Eagle forwards Curtain and Heron be the key in the preliminary final? Can the engine room players such as Tangata, Minchin, Hills, Eiszele and Foster win the vital midfield battle? Can big Michael Murray and Corey Ransley win the centre bounce taps and take some big grabs around the ground? Will the skill and talent of Blair Wardlaw be a telling factor going forward and can the Eagle backs in Browning, Fisher-Cooley, Hodge, and Purdon continue to keep the opposition to a low score? All will unfold this weekend, go Eagles! Book your tickets at www.trybooking.com/BTZLY
New Norfolk 8.9 (57)
Dodges Ferry 6.11 (47)
Best – New Norfolk: C. Ransley, B. Hodge, R. Heron, T. Tangata, J. Hills, L. Browning; Dodges Ferry: S. Boxall, O. Dodge, M. Cusick, C. Sutcliffe, J. Pepper, L. Minty.
Goals – New Norfolk: R. Heron 5, C. Curtain 2, J. Eiszele; Dodges Ferry: B. Dolliver 2, C. Sutcliffe, M. Cusick, A. Press, O. Dodge.