Woodsmen to hit finals with momentum
Western Magpies affiliate the Woodsmen have finished the H&A season in 5th place on the ladder, but take crucial momentum into the finals after strong back to back victories in the closing 2 rounds.
After an indifferent start, the Woodsmen have re-grouped late in the year and have close to a full strength list to choose from as finals approach and are confident of a strong premiership assault.
The Woodsmen take on Sandgate at Sandgate in the Elimination Final on Friday August 5 at 730pm. Sandgate sat on top of the ladder for a majority of 2016 but were soundly beaten by the Woodsmen in the final round last week, and also in Round 9 – making up 2 of their 3 losses for the year and pushing them to 4th place and into the elimination final.
After last weeks comprehensive win, the Woodsmen will welcome back their skipper Sean Toohey, key defender Paul Eaton and utility Brett McEvoy to strengthen the side. This will be the strongest the team has looked on paper all year and they are primed to push deep into finals, despite finishing 5th at the close of the H&A season.
As always, the Woodsmen have built their season on a strong and miserly defence – again lead by Tim Green at CHB with his intercept marking and exceptional reading of the play. Paul Eaton has improved again in his second season at full back, with his penetrating long kicks and run from deep in defence a feature. Stalwarts on the flanks and in the pockets, Matty Prior and Chris La Burniy both enjoyed superb seasons, particularly with their ability to cover for teammates and in some cases play both tall or short as the situation demands.
In the midfield, Sam Curtis has recently re-captured his early season hot form and while he is an exceptional ball winner – his tackling is team lifting, particularly his trade mark run downs of bigger opponents. Playing coach Chris Mihalopoulos has enjoyed the increased midfield depth late in the year, and along with fellow midfielder Chris Davis – has snuck forward to hit the scoreboard regularly, with both pushing up the goalkicking tally late in the year. Brett McEvoy and Greg Matthews both re-joined the side mid-season and have been important in adding to the midfield depth and relieving pressure. On the wings, the evergreen Kiran Verma continues to provide crucial outside run and when he regularly gets the ball on transition out wide, the Woodsmen are looking their best. On the other wing – David Fraser has returned from a Premiership season in Mackay and while he has lacked continuity, he has provided a very strong physical presence late in the year and his exceptional high marking ability has returned just in time for the business end of the year. The Woodies have had a revolving door in the ruck this year, but have recently found some stability with Darcy McCewen back into the side permanently and Warwick Forman providing superb backup, and also filling key defensive posts.
Up front the Woodies struggled at times this year to kick a score, with so many players going through the forward line during the season and a lack of structure and continuity this was always going to be a problem. However, with Gerard Moore back on deck at CHF to straighten up the attack and a good balance of talls and smalls – the Woodies are looking stronger up front late in the year. Long-time skipper, Sean Toohey has struggled with injury this year but should return with a vengeance looking to lift the cup as skipper for the 3rd time. When he has been on the park, he has regularly hit the scoreboard and been creative across half forward. Also at ground level, Matt Monaghan hasn’t dominated like he has in the past, but is hitting his straps late in the year both up forward and occasional stints through the middle, and will be an X-Factor for the Woodsmen in the finals. Matt Garland has proven an important regular inclusion, providing a quality tall target up forward and also pushing through the midfield both at ground level and in the ruck and his versatility provides crucial depth across the park for the Woodsmen. Also providing a tall target up front, is Andrew Thomson who has led the goalkicking in 2016 but has also spent time filling key defensive posts and ruck duties where required.
First year player Nick Masters has shown constant improvement throughout the season, and provides a versatile option on the wing, half forward or halfback, while Lochie McDonald has been the very definition of ‘versatile’ in 2016, filling almost every position on the field other than ruck duties at some point during the year. Lochie enjoyed a star turn at full-forward in a 2nd half comeback vs Zillmere in a 1 point loss, and then only last week lined up at full-back on the dangerous Sandgate full-forward in a comprehensive win. He has spent time at half forward, half back, on the wing and also played regularly through the midfield. It is expected to be a tough week at the selection table this week – which is a good problem to have – with Premiership players like Jeffson Fehr-Smith and Ben Eckert vying for selection along with club stalwarts and newcomers like Tristan Mathews, Dylan Mudge, Tom and Dave Schultz, Andrew Bell, Russell Peter and many others all worthy of selection.
Mid-season recruit, Blake Barkley – who has played every game since arriving – unfortunately suffered a neck injury vs Sandgate last week and looks unlikely to recover in time. However, he could be right to push for a re-call as the Woodsmen expect to push deeper into the finals.
It’s a big ask, but the Woodies would welcome any support heading north to Lemke Road to take on Sandgate in the elimination final.
Woodsmen AFC vs Sandgate Hawks – Friday August 5, 730pm – Lemke Road, Taigum.