The SAFL's Ben Layton looks a picture of balance as he drives his team forward.
The SAFL's Ben Layton looks a picture of balance as he drives his team forward.

Summerland-AFL win first rep game over Tamworth


A QUARTER of a century of trying has finally borne fruit with the Summerland Australian Football League (SAFL) 'Bravehearts' hanging on in a thriller against Tamworth-AFL to win their first senior representative game since organised football began in the region.

Summerland held on by two points at Fripp Oval, Ballina, on Saturday to win 8.13 (61) to 8.11 (59).

A tricky breeze made life difficult for the teams' forwards, hence the low scorelines.

SAFL coach Ron Meldrum had a few anxious moments deep in the last quarter.

"It was one of those games that could've gone either way," he said.

"Not at any stage was I confident we'd win. "There was a sense of 'Oh, here we go again' after being in a winning position but I'm just glad for the players that we won.

"It really is all about the players because they're the ones out there busting their guts for each other." While neither team was at its strongest, the 44 who played certainly put their all in to the contest, which made for a fairly skilled game with a finals-like intensity.

Summerland's Shem Aitken kicked the game's first major when he accepted a fine pass from Matt Gardner 30 metres out.

Tamworth hit back almost immediately when Richard Craften gathered a loose ball and found Andrew Hawkins on a lead. Hawkins kicked his side's second shortly after, then Peter Prendergast landed a massive bomb to have the visitors up at 3.1.

Summerland drew level when Aitken and Doug Perich slotted in one each after which Gavin Plummer nailed his first to have their side up 4.4 to 3.2 at quarter-time. The home side stepped on the gas in the second term, restricting the visitors to just two goals while adding four for the term, with Aitken and Gavin Plummer the contributors.

Perhaps sensing complacency creeping in to the home side, Tamworth lifted in the third.

They pegged back a 20-point half-time deficit to a one-point margin by three-quarter time, due to forced pressure on Summerland and pouncing when they created a turnover.

The spark for Tamworth's third-quarter run came when the nuggetty Col Daye intercepted a loose pass across the middle to bomb home a six-pointer.

By three-quarter-time it was anyone's game. Meldrum reacted by swinging Ben Plummer to centre half-forward, Frank Reid in the ruck and Matt Gardner and Sean McQueen down back to shore up the defence.

Summerland had several chances to seal the game but set shots and gettable goals went astray.

Aitken, usually deadly accurate, could not buy a goal in the last quarter. Other opportunities to Perich and Ben Plummer sailed wide.

The frantic final five minutes were intense and neither side could break the deadlock but Summerland hung on for a memorable win.

The home side were well served by Crispin Myers in defence, Gardner, whose hustle and bustle in the backline was superb, the Plummer boys, Ben and Gavin, and George Massa, whose run and carry from defence was brilliant.

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