Depleted Lions crushed by switched on Kangas

Cameron NewboldAlbany Advertiser
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North Albany secured a fifth straight grand final appearance after handing rivals Royals an 82-point drubbing in the Great Southern Football League’s second semifinal at Collingwood Park on Saturday afternoon.

The Kangas, who finished the season as minor premiers, booted five unanswered goals in the first term and by three-quarter-time had opened up a commanding 63-point advantage.

Four more goals in the final term only added further pain for the Lions, as the home side cruised to a comfortable 15.9 (99) to 1.11 (17) victory in their chase for a fourth successive league premiership.

North Albany’s Corey Hitchcock contests with Royals’ Arana O’Byrne.
Camera IconNorth Albany’s Corey Hitchcock contests with Royals’ Arana O’Byrne. Credit: Albany Advertiser

The reigning premiers’ defence was again superb, keeping the Lions goalless until hardworking midfielder Tyron Smallwood booted their only goal in the last four minutes of the match.

Already missing midfielder Dave Parker (knee) and tall forward Peter Mark (hamstring) the Lions also went into the final without key forward Sam Baddeley-Holmes (back).

North Albany's Luke Chambers takes on Royals' Ryan Flick and Michael McGlade.
Camera IconNorth Albany's Luke Chambers takes on Royals' Ryan Flick and Michael McGlade. Credit: Albany Advertiser

After the Kangas kicked five goals in the opening term, the Lions had 16 inside 50 entries in the second term but could only add two more points to the four behinds they registered in the first, all of which were gettable shots on goal.

The margin quickly blew out early in the second half when big man Kris Ericson goaled and then small forward Jesse Wynne snared his second of the match.

Royals' Tom Baldwin fires out a handball.
Camera IconRoyals' Tom Baldwin fires out a handball. Credit: Albany Advertiser

Wynne booted two majors in the third term opposed to Jake Puls, while majors to Jacob Hobbs and Corey Hitchcock put the result beyond doubt.

Midfielder Ray Padfield was again a dominant force as he collected possessions at will and scored two goals in the Kangas’ triumph, while youngster Jack Steel was superb in the ruck and around the ground.

Although North Albany stars Matt Orzel (18 possessions) and Jack McPhee (11) were reasonably well held and the Kangas lost the inside 50 count 38-39, it was their miserly defence that led the way.

Regan Lloyd, Alec Haskins and Stef Ericson were all impressive in defence while the elusive Wynne booted six goals to underline his status as a genuine match winner.

North Albany's Tom Bigwood attempts to mark as Royals' Cent Amores spoils.
Camera IconNorth Albany's Tom Bigwood attempts to mark as Royals' Cent Amores spoils. Credit: Albany Advertiser

Kangas coach Craig Dew was delighted to progress to another grand final, paying credit to his back line.

“I was disappointed with the second quarter but we addressed that and our second half was pretty polished,” Dew said. “But we take it into perspective that we are at full strength and they are missing three of their very best.

“We’ve been so even all year, if guys are quiet or tagged we still have quality guys stepping up. Our defence dominated and they have been our strength all year.”

Smallwood was outstanding through the middle of the ground all day, while fellow youngster Tom Baldwin (23 disposals) was also a shining light, but they lacked senior support.

Royals' Corey Ward looks to evade North Albany's Jesse Wynne.
Camera IconRoyals' Corey Ward looks to evade North Albany's Jesse Wynne. Credit: Albany Advertiser

Lions coach James McRae said his side were dealt a finals lesson by the premiership favourites.

“It was a fantastic finals lesson for us — we had nine guys under 19,” McRae said. “We should have had four goals on the board in the first and then had 16 entries in the second for nothing.

“Our senior players didn’t stand up, and having no key forwards threw our game out a bit.”

Ben Watson was the only injury concern for the Lions, going down grabbing his troublesome shoulder, while Luke Cameron was concussed in a marking contest for the Kangas.

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