Tiger triumph a sad song for Swans
THERE are only so many grand finals a club can lose before it becomes an insurmountable millstone.
Just ask any fan of AFL club Collingwood: 11 grand final defeats since 1960.
That psychological barrier is fast becoming Lismore's after the Swans let slip yet another premiership after being rolled by Tweed Coast by 28 points, 11.16 (82) to 8.6 (54), in the Summerland AFL grand final in front of a large and vocal crowd at Fripp Oval at Ballina on Saturday, providing the two-year-old Tigers their first flag.
That makes it four grand final losses since 2005 for the Swans.
It wasn't pretty for Lismore on Saturday.
Well, the first two quarters were but it became decidedly ugly after half-time.
“People always say, ‘There's always next year', but after today, two (grand final defeats) in a row, you just have to wonder. It sort of gets to you,” Simon Howard, Lismore's captain, said yesterday.
“But I am still proud of the effort we put in. The way we've been playing with that running style of football has been great. And to be playing in a grand final after almost not even making the finals, I couldn't be prouder.”
Howard, a defender, said he began to sense the match slipping after the Tigers got out to 16 points late in the final quarter.
When Lismore's Wes Seewald snapped truly on his non-preferred left foot, the Swans were just 10 points down with 10 minutes remaining.
Another push forward from the centre bounce-down saw Lismore's hopes rise, but the sturdy Tigers defence, led by the dreadlocked Tim Wells, thwarted the push and the resultant clearance led to a Tweed goal.
And another after that.
For neutral observers, the match certainly lived up to grand final hype, and the lack of a strong breeze gave neither side an advantage.
Former Sydney Swans and St Kilda rookie James Walle showed why he was much sought-after by AFL clubs with a superb performance from the middle, but only after breaking the shackles in the second half.
His and Josh Bone's run and precision-passing brought the likes of Bob Hill Medal winner (best-on-ground) Ash Grumwell into the game after half-time.
In fact, it seemed the switch that was turned to the ‘on' position for the Tigers, turned to the ‘off' position for Lismore at the main break.
Lismore shocked the star-studded Tigers with a blazing first term in which the Swans played their particular brand of footy that's served them well this past month: hard, fast and full of run.
It resulted in fast breaks from the congestion where the likes of Morgan Hindry, Eddie Burton, Rhys Lavery and teenager Alex Power had the ball on a string.
Lismore's ruck pairing of Jason Bevan and Shaun Wadwell were on top of their Tigers counterparts, dual Grogan Medal winner (QAFL best and fairest) David Round, and Nathan Wilson, giving their onballers quality use of the ball.
And the Swans' defence was superb, with Ben Hughes, Gus Legoe and Nick Harris leading from the front.
A 15-point lead to the Swans at half-time gave the Lismore side plenty of confidence, although that margin could have been much greater but for wayward kicking by their forwards.
However, the Tigers switched into gear after the break, and they used a tactical ploy the Swans didn't react to.
Walle ran hard into space, the SAFL's leading goal-kicker Jason Bolt marked strongly when pushed back in defence and Grumwell hauled in all that came his way up forward.
Round and Wilson began to assert some authority in the ruck, delivering deft taps and knocks to their followers in the clear. Their aerial work also brought into play the Tiger wingers, who were instructed to stand at half-back and push forward at the centre bounces. That gave Tweed two more players in defence and extra run through the middle. There was no Lismore counter to this.
Lismore's cause wasn't helped when Burton collided with team-mate Bevan early in the third term – he couldn't come back on – and he'll be nursing sore ribs for a while. And his loss was sorely felt.
The Tigers tightened up in defence and in the forward line, giving the Swans no room to move, taking a six-point lead into the final quarter to run out 28-point winners.