Ankle injury: Brett Lane is in doubt for the semi-final today.
Ankle injury: Brett Lane is in doubt for the semi-final today.

Rovers new priority

RICHMOND Rovers’ campaign to defend their last remaining trophy starts today when they host a dangerous Pottsville outfit in its debut finals appearance in the major preliminary semi-final of Football FNC premier league soccer at 3pm.

After starting their 50th season with all three titles, Rovers have surrendered the minor premiership and the Anzac Cup to Goonellabah, leaving the proud East Lismore club determined to hold on to the major premiership for a fourth straight season.

“It’s certainly something we’ve talked about and it’s a big priority for us; it’s generating a lot of motivation among the boys,” player-coach Tim Sheridan said.

Sheridan will be a key part of Rovers’ attack if he can take the field, with the big striker nursing a foot injury and undergoing a fitness test this morning.

Seasoned midfielder Brett Lane is also in doubt with an ankle injury, with Scott Crouch likely to take his spot and Daniel Brown on standby for Sheridan.

“I think it will be won in midfield where Aaron Heffernan will be important for us, but Scott Coster and Mitchell Flower will also need to show their experience in defence,” Sheridan said.

“They have two good strikers and David Lonie is a danger, he just seems to float around and pop up anywhere.”

Panthers striker Mike Kolovos was second on the scorers’ list with 15 goals and partner Josh Boag wasn’t far behind, while player-coach David Lonie has had a dynamic season.

Despite being in his early 30s, Lonie’s phenomenal fitness allows him to run non-stop, making him almost impossible to mark.

His contribution on and off the paddock has been a huge factor in Pottsville’s unprecedented success this season.

The Panthers have doubts over midfielder Matt DeGroot and will start without giant goalkeeper Nathan Wilson, who is also playing for Tweed Coast in a Summerland AFL semi-final at Oakes Oval, Lismore, today.

Wilson is hoping to arrive for the second half of the soccer in a hectic schedule.

Lonie has been forced to make several changes in recent weeks and will hope the Panthers can settle early.

“We’ll have to be at our best to beat Rovers, so we’ll need to recapture the rhythm we had a month ago and do it early,” Lonie said.

“We need to retain the ball and not give away possession cheaply or they’ll hurt us, and we’ll also have to match them physically, but we’re a physical side too and don’t mind that,” Lonie said.

Both sides play an attacking game and at their sharpest have produced some of the best football of the season.

The winner will meet minor premiers Goonellabah in the major semi next week, while the loser will get a second chance against the winner of the knockout semi last night between Ballina and Thistles.

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