Thistles eye first grand final in two decades

Workers' Ryan Benbow and Thistles' Adam Buckley pictured using their heads to contest the ball during a 2010 match at the Thistles's home ground.
Workers' Ryan Benbow and Thistles' Adam Buckley pictured using their heads to contest the ball during a 2010 match at the Thistles's home ground. Cathy Adams

LISMORE Thistles today have the chance to book their first grand final berth in 21 years.

Thistles host Lismore Workers in the Far North Coast premier division soccer major semi-final with an exciting match in prospect.

The Blues' previous appearance in a decider was in 1992 when they clinched the premiership double.

After capturing this season's minor premiership, the 2013 side is halfway to replicating the feat.

But the Blues' successful premiership campaign ended with an unexpected twist, losing their last two games after previously being undefeated.

"We'd wrapped up the title by then and those two games had nothing riding on them," Blues coach Craig Kennedy said.

"Now that the pressure is back on, the boys are ready to go."

Thistles have had the edge over Workers this season, with a 3-1 win and 1-all draw in their two encounters.

The Blues will field a full-strength line-up fresh from having last week off.

They will look to their solid defence to lay the platform for a win.

Goalkeeper Brad Robertson and central defenders Max Hospers and Max Toovey have formed the tightest defence in the league but they face a new threat today.

After missing most of the season, Workers' irrepressible striker Wayne Mortimer is back from knee surgery.

Mortimer marked his return with the opening goal in their 2-0 semi-final win over Byron Bay last week, and his ability to link with their other attacking options will be pivotal.

Flankers Martin Kelleher and Max Harlan, along with midfielder Kurt Walker, will all look to feed off Mortimer's ability to draw defenders and distribute.

"It's great to have 'Mort' back," Workers coach Daniel Kelly said.

"He can spark a lot from the side.

"It's going to be a fast game.

"Both sides like to move the ball quickly, but we'll focus on getting behind their backline to break them down.

"After being a bit inconsistent earlier in the season, the side has settled down now and we're starting to reach our potential at the right time."

Workers will be looking for consecutive grand final appearances after last year's win over Richmond Rovers gave the Redmen their first major premiership in eight years.

"The boys are hungry for more success," Kelly said.

"We want to be at Oakes Oval on the big day to defend our title."

Kick-off today is 5pm.



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