The Western Magpies added a tick their finals credentials with hard fought win over Labrador played in perfect conditions in front of a healthy home crowd at McCarthy Homes Oval at Chelmer on Saturday.
Labrador have played in the past four QAFL Grand Finals for two premierships and remain a formidable outfit in 2018 as key players slowly return.
In a first half where the Pies controlled the game largely and lead most of the important stats, they remained challenged on the scoreboard and on several occasions looked like they could skip away before Labrador efficiently closed the gap with accurate and clean finishing. Midway through the 2nd the Pies controlled proceedings but missed several simple shots to have just a 15 point lead before Labrador came late with a burst of 3 goals in 3 minutes to take a half-time 1 point lead.
The Pies knew they were well and truly in a contest as the Labrador midfield gained ascendancy at the contest and their key talls at both ends were threatening, with 2017 Grogan Medalist Wade Mills a constant headache with his marking prowess in defence, both chopping off Magpie attacks but also as the linkman out of trouble. The Magpies then slipped 2 goals behind in the third quarter but fought back to take 9 point lead at three quarter time after taking advantage scoring opportunities.
Early goals were the order of the day for the Pies at the start of the final quarter but it was the Tigers who booted 2 quick goals to snatch a 3 point lead and put the Pies fans on edge. With the Tiger tail wagging and tails up it looked like the match was could be slipping from the Pies grasp. But this is a resilient group who are starting to believe and they gritted their teeth, composed themselves and actually dominated the final 20 minutes to boot 3 goals and run out 16 points winners, 12.12-84 to 10.8-68.
The match was hard fought and tough affair and no more than 3 goals separated the sides during the game--the Pies 16 point margin was the equal largest for the match.
Coach Brydan Morgan was proud of the win as the Pies were challenged by a resurgent Tigers and he commented that sometimes you have to win ugly but as long as the 4 points are pocketed that it is all that matters--and winning ugly often wins premierships!! Morgan pointed out that Labrador came to play and their intensity was up a few notches compared to recent matches.
Morgan as rapt in the performance of key defender Brady Allen, who after starting the season in the Reserves has repaid his coach with 3 solid performances since his recall. Allen used his strength and height to win some key battles and then used his strong left foot to roost the Pies into attack.
Morgan also singled out fullback Stephen Mills, a Redland listed player, who held key forward and ex AFL player Bryce Retzlaff to 2 goals. Mills looks to be enjoying the Magpies environment and although as all NEAFL listed players he would prefer to play for his NEAFL club, he has embraced the Pies culture and is a popular player at Chelmer.
Billy Johnson was also a key player in his first game back at the Pies after Brisbane Lions NEAFL duties and an ankle injury.and he booted 3 goals in a fine performance on the wing. His 3 goals were vital at times when the Pies were in danger of being overrun. He was able to slot back into the Pies line-up seamlessly and looked right at home at his home club.
Kale Reed continued his good recent form to be a busy player up forward, continually harassing the tiger defenders to create a few turnovers and he booted 2 important goals as well.
David Lewis and Luca Winton were fine defenders with Lewis again marking strongly across half back and Winton mopping up well and defusing several Labrador sorties.
Anthony Corrie bobbed at crucial times to boot 3 goals, including a vintage effort collecting a groundball to turn his opponent inside out before kicking truly from the arc. Liam Dwyer worked hard in ruck and then was busy up forward to kick 3 vital goals. It should have been 4 goals as the umpire was fooled by a Labrador player on the mark clapping as the ball went past and although the kick was true the field umpire was in a terrible rush to call touched, when the Labrador player was nowhere near it! The Pies could argue they had 2 further goals as Corrie and Jake De Winter had kicks that appeared to clearly go through the big sticks only to be ruled as behinds by the goal umpire. De Winters was especially disappointing as it followed his latest entry to Mark of the Year with plenty of hang time much to the delight of the home crowd.
Aaron Highlands also did a workmanlike job in the ruck to be named the BG Award winner for the match and half forward Riley Easton won several crucial turnovers and his tackle pressure was important for the Magpies.
The Pies are fourth on the ladder and face another big test on Saturday at McCarthy Homes Oval, Chelmer when they host a resurgent Morningside, who demolished the previously unbeaten Mt Gravatt by 102 points on the weekend.
Western Magpies 2.3 - 15 | 6.7 - 43 | 9.9 - 63 | 12.12 - 84
Labrador Tigers 3.1 - 19 | 7.2 - 44 | 8.6 - 54 | 10.8 - 68
Best: Allen, Mills, Johnson, Winton, Lewis, Reed
Goals: Johnson, Corrie, Dwyer 3, Reed 2, Jaenke-Cain 1