Owls wary of young Knights as they seek grand final redemption
Playing in a ninth straight grand final, Barking Owls will hunt for just their third men’s A-grade premiership tomorrow night but captain Justin Benson has declared it will be far from easy against a Knights outfit full of confidence.
Owls progressed to a ninth consecutive decider after easily brushing aside Knights in last week’s second semifinal, but the young squad bounced back in impressive fashion on Tuesday, belting reigning champions Tigers in a three-point shooting procession.
Knights hit 12 three-pointers in the preliminary final and, after finishing the regular season on top of the standings, deserve to be there when the title is decided.
Owls will be buoyed by the fact that their grand final nemesis Tigers, who have beaten them in five of the past eight grand finals, will not be there — but Benson said their new opponent was just as tough.
“(Knights) were a bit nervous in their first final,” Benson said.
“Last week we came out and surprised them, we were physical which is a bit unusual for us and I think we will stick with that.
“We are a bit bigger and more experienced so we’ll draw on that.
“We might want to a hand up on some of their shooters as well.”
Owls won the men’s title in 2014-15 against Wolves and beat Stirling Rangers in 2013-14 but lost to Tigers and Raiders in the past two grand finals.
Benson, entering his 17th local grand final, said his side were in good shape physically and had plenty of scoring options with Carwin Garcia and Red Rogers both averaging more than 11 points per game.
Knights player-coach Ryan O’Driscoll said facing Owls for the premiership was a great test for his exciting young outfit.
“We thought Owls would be the team to beat coming into the finals,” he said. “They are smart and have wily, experienced players.
“We will be trying to push the tempo and creating that mismatch.
“We are going to hit threes, we’ve got great shooters but obviously Justin and minimising his output is key.”
O’Driscoll said it was unlikely Matt Leary would travel back for the grand final, but he was confident in his side to repeat the dose of 2015-16 when a young Raiders outfit stormed to the title.
Magpies and Panthers will be out to create history in the women’s A-grade grand final tomorrow night, neither team having won the title previously.
Magpies lost the decider last year but have been the team to beat this season, led by MVP Nardia Humphries and Taimania Jones.
Panthers stars Kayla Thomas and Ella Scamozzi along with centre Nina Smith are keys to their premiership hopes.
In their head-to-head clashes this season, Magpies hold a commanding 6-1 advantage and beat Panthers by three points in last week’s second semifinal.
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