The past two weekends haven't been very good for the Magpie family as the anticipation coming toward the finals was high but the Pies hopes have been dashed in three of the four grades.
The Woodsmen went into the QFA Division 4 Grand Final at Coorparoo on Friday night as warm favourites against Maroochydore but were on the back foot from the first bounce and just could not get themselves into the contest. The Pies were prepared for a tough battle as despite winning the three contests during the season they got progressively closer from a 39 point win earlier in the year, before winning away by 6 points and again by 6 points in the Semi final.
Maroochydoore got first use of a 5 goal breeze and at quarter time, trailing by just 7 points the Woodsmen were very happy with how things were going, but they then failed to take their chances with the use of the wind themselves and were outscored to go into half-time goalless, but still miraculously only down by 16 points and still in it despite a poor first half.
After the break however, the wind had switched to a tricky cross breeze making kicking at goal difficult and even hitting targets in general play hard work. The Woodies were their own worst enemy, gifting the Roos 3 of their 4 goals in the 3rd quarter via 50m penalties, taking them to the goal-line, taking tough conditions out of the equation.
In the final quarter the wind had largely died down, but the superior fitness and speed of the younger Roos outfit was telling on the big ground, and only poor kicking for goal kept the score even mildly respectable.
The Pies just could not match the pace and precise ball use of the Roos and try as they might just had a bad night when it counted most. Missing Sam Banim hurt the Woodies, even more so when youngster Braydon Thomas suffered a devastating ACL tear early in the game after getting through the full season unscathed after returning from an ACL 2 years prior
The Reserves surged in the latter half of the season to force their way into the Elimination Final against PBC at Surfers Paradise last Sunday, but like the Woodsmen were off the pace physically and metaphorically. The Palm Beach-Currumbin players were pacey and used that to their advantage and except for the first 15 minutes of the match when the Pies could have had 3 goals on the board the Pies looked slow and reactive. The Pies were held to 2 goals in the blustery conditions, by far their lowest score for the year. Seems the Magpies aren't find of windy conditions!
The Reserves had a roller coaster ride to the finals and this may have caught them out last Sunday. After a round 11 loss to Broadbeach the Pies were 3 games outside the five. But the Pies regained some key players and then won 6 of the last 7 matches to surge into the finals. But like the Seniors, the stress of continually having to play do-or-die matches week in, week out probably had them not quite right mentally and after the first 15 minutes were not able to establish any ascendancy at all.
Interestingly though, the Magpies were able to defeat every single Reserves side in the competition at least once other than Labrador and good judges have noted the enormous lift in standard across the board in QAFL Reserves in 2018
Coach Des Lashman commented that it was the Magpies first Reserves finals appearance in 4 seasons and many of the younger players will benefit from the experience. The irony of last weeks loss to a youthful Lions team was that the Magpies best players were the experienced players with Peter Kilroy the Pies best player and the oldest player on the ground. Skipper Sean Mewing was busy especially early and Gareth Crawford also scrapped hard.
Disappointment is probably an understatement after the Seniors saved arguably their worst performance for the year in the most important match of the year to date.
For the past 5-6 weeks the Pies looked to be up their with the best in the QAFL and after defeating Morningside 2 weeks prior had sent a shiver through the other QAFL finals bound clubs. On talking to many Pies players and coaches when watching the Reserves on Sunday, missing the finals burns deep and leaves a "gnawing feeling in the guts" about what the possibilities were had the Pies made the five.
The 0-3 start to the season in matches the Pies could have won came back to haunt the Pies as they were always playing catch up on the ladder and the inability to win any of the 5 close matches they played proved their undoing. Just one win out of these close losses and the Pies would have finished third and preparing for a Qualifying Final on Saturday. Catch up football on the ladder but also in many of their matches this season
The Pies play a tough attritional style of football and were unable to match Surfers outside run and pace and at times the Pies players looked tired from a season where they had to play catch up on the ladder and also catch up in many of their matches this season, not to mention having all 3 of their byes in the first 12 rounds, resulting in playing the last 7 games consecutively.
The Pies missed the pressure and pace that Riley Easton usually provides after he was injured midway through the second quarter. Riley injured an ankle and could not return and with Will Fletcher nursing a sore head and on and off the bench the Pies were down on rotations and this probably told in the last quarter.
The Pies defence was superb all season and the mantra in the club was that if the opposition could be kept to 11 goals then the Pies would win 90% of their matches. The Pies had 12 goals or more kicked on them in only 4 matches with the highest goal tally kicked against them of 14 goals against Broadbeach. But the Pies also struggled to kick goals and in several matches poor kicking for goal cost them dearly.
On a positive note 16 of the 22 players in the Senior team and 18 of the 22 Reserves players that the Pies put on the field last Saturday all came up through the ranks at Chelmer which is a phenomenal effort for the club and its player development.
In retrospect the Pies missed Aaron Highlands in the loss to Surfers Paradise and the versatility he provided to start him at CHB then throw him into the ruck if needed was sorely missed. Such are the small things that can make or break a season.
The Pies went down to Surfers by 21 points in the final round yet did not play well. The Demons won by 6 goals over Mt Gravatt in the Elimination Final to underline how close the Pies were to the top this year. Bugger!!
The Magpies Colts had a solid victory at Surfers in the final round, leading from the fist minute and never in any danger of defeat. The Pies locked in top spot on the ladder with the win and played an attractive brand of football with slick use of the ball by hand and foot.
The game was marred by several ugly incidents with Pies players the targets and the QAFL has investigated the incidents, one of which left Pies player Abdullah Haddad with a fractured nose and cheekbone.
Colts now fly the flag for the Magpies as they travel to Currumbin to take on the home team in the QAFL Second semi final. The winner goes straight into the Grand Final and the scores are one win each this season. The Pies went down by 17 points, 8-8-56 to 5-9-39 points in round 4 on the coast but had an emphatic 14-12-96 to 8-5-53 win at Chelmer in round 14.
The Pies had one eye on a quartet of popular ex-players in Chris Devlin, Nick Barling, Jaike Bowen and the ageless Michael Lyons (QAFL Reserves League B & F in 2004 and 2005) as they lined up with Ipswich in the QFA Division 3 Grand Final at Wilston Grange last Saturday. The Eagles went down to Carrara by 6 goals after they defeated the same opponent by 6 goals in the Second Semi Final. Carrara then downed Kedron in the Preliminary Final. Ex Pies player and coach Craig St John was helping out on the coaching bench at Kedron where his son Sam St John has been playing. It was Ipswich's second Grand Final loss in a row-maybe third time lucky next year.
At the risk of missing any number of Pies ex-players who may be in finals a few come to mind with Luke Scott and Jim Rozynski playing key roles in Mitiamo's two finals wins to date in the Loddon Valley League situated just north of Bendigo. Also in the SuperRoos team is ex QAFL players Matt Trewhella (Grange), Michael l'Ansen (PBC) and Lucas Matthews (Noosa).
Popular Pies player Matt "Clock" Thompson won the Canberra Leagues Reserves B & F this week. Clock is running around for Ainslie and is happy playing in the twos, which is coached by his brother Andrew, also an ex-Pie. Ainslie are aiming for their third Reserves (and Senior flag) in a row on Sunday at Manuka. Andrew also won the League B & F last year to keep it in the family. Clock is also training for the javelin at the Institute of Sport and is targeting the Paralympics in Tokyo in 2020 and is making progress as he nears the qualifying mark.