It felt like 2018 all over again as Fankhauser Reserve laid witness to the Southport Sharks’ decimation of the Aspley Hornets in a 30-point preliminary final win on Saturday afternoon.
The win qualifies the Sharks for their second consecutive Grand Final, where they will take on the winner of Brisbane vs Sydney on Sunday.
Southport Coach Stephen Daniel was rightfully pleased by his side’s performance against an Aspley team the Sharks lost to just eight weeks ago.
“We always knew it was going to be tough, it always is with Aspley,” Daniel told neafl.com.au.
“We believe there’s not much between us at all, so we’re pretty happy obviously, bec there such a formidable team. Prelim finals are just tough to win, so to get the result was really exciting.”
“We spoke during the week that to beat Aspley you just had to win contested ball all over the ground. We found last time we played them, we might have won the contest in the middle of the ground, but they certainly beat us defensively and offensively.”
Southport key forward Josh Hall began proceedings in thrilling style, taking a clean contested mark and converting his effort from the 50-metre arc, providing the sole major score of the opening quarter.
Hall followed his efforts up in the second term, showing off his high-jump background to climb high above his opponents and take a spectacular grab for his second goal.
The home side collected another two goals via Mitch Johnson and Ryan Davis before the visitors were able to respond with one of their own, where Aspley youngster Connor Stackelberg stalked a marking contest and soccered a clever goal from the goalsquare.
Closing out the half with two more goals to the black and white, the Hornets had a serious challenge ahead of them to turn the 30-point strong tide in the third term.
Aspley looked ready to do so when they emerged from the dressing rooms, keen to experiment in attempt to change the tempo, placing Team of the Year defender Gavin Grose in the forward line.
Connor Stackelberg added two goals in the opening two minutes of the term, and key tall Jono Freeman converted a set shot to reduce the deficit to under two goals.
The fightback was short-lived however, as the Sharks added six goals to the Hornets’ two to three-quarter time, so while the brown and gold were able to win the final term three goals to one, the foundations of Southport’s victory had been cemented far too long ago.
Running through half-back and the midfield, Shark Ryan Davis was superb with his 26 disposals, as big forwards Trent Stubbs and Josh Hall collected three goals apiece.
Four goals from Connor Stackelberg gave Hornets fans a glimpse into their future, as the Hornets turn to 2020 for their long-awaited grand final spot.
Coach Stephen Daniel was pleased with the performance as a whole, but conceded that their efforts after the main break left something to be desired.
“Our first half was terrific to be five goals up at half-time,” he said.
“But I felt we let ourselves down, we lost our concentration there in the third; they got within twelve points. We changed a couple of things around and ended up having a good win.”
Southport’s opponent in the 2019 NEAFL Grand Final will be decided on Sunday as the undefeated Brisbane Lions take on the in-form Sydney Swans at South Pine Sports Complex.
NEAFL Preliminary Final 2
Southport Sharks v Aspley Hornets at Fankhauser Reserve
SOUTHPORT 1.3 6.4 12.4 14.10 (94)
ASPLEY 0.2 1.4 6.5 9.10 (64)
GOALS – Southport: J Hall 3 T Stubbs 3 M Johnson 2 T Fields
2 M Manteit 2 R Davis J O’Shea. Aspley: C Stackelberg 4 J Freeman 2 W Murphy
J Giles T Abberley.
BEST – Southport: B Murdoch R Davis J Hall D Mutu R Clark J Turner. Aspley: C Stackelberg L Dawson M Payne G Grose J Freeman J Craven.
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