New England stay alive

Nomads set up Saints showdown
By James Polson (Armidale Express, 25/08/2008)
The New England Nomads set up a do-or-die encounter with defending premiers the Inverell Saints after coming away with a 12-point win in a tight Tamworth Australian Football League (TAFL) minor semi-final tussle with the Gunnedah Bulldogs at Bellevue on Saturday.

Stellar performances with the boot from Weston Whitby, who kicked seven majors, and Rich Malone who slotted three, set up the win while Sam Trotman and Ed Nixon also performed strongly.

The Bulldogs got off to a good start in blustery conditions, taking a 2-4-16 to 0-3-3 lead into the quarter-time break, but the Nomads fought back with a six-goal second quarter to take a 17-point advantage into the main break.

Gunnedah out-kicked the Armidale side in the third term but were only able to reduce the deficit to 12 points.

The fourth quarter saw the visitors push for what would have been a huge upset, at one point leading by seven points, but some impressive running play and kicking at crucial junctions saw the Nomads live to fight another day.

Nomads coach Brendan Meehan said he was impressed with the way his side never gave up and kept fighting for the win.

“We’ve just got to take that attitude into every game,” he said.

“Right across the park the boys never gave up, even when we were behind in the last quarter.

“The conditions were rough, especially in the first quarter when we were kicking right into the gusty wind so we just kept their score as low as possible.

“We got a few in the second and then the second half was just a hard fought battle for both teams.”

In addition to Whitby, Malone, Trotman and Nixon Meehan named Clinton Ballagh and captain Glen Northway as standouts.

“He [Northway] seems to control the boys well,” Meehan said.

“When he’s in the backline there he lets them know what they have to do.

“And Clinton had a great game, he never gave up.”

In Saturday’s other match the Tamworth Kangaroos thumped the Saints by 39 points in Inverell to secure the home grand-final.

Dan Overeem was the star for the Kangaroos, kicking eight of his side’s 17 goals, while Andrew Hawkins also amongst the spoils with four.

The Kangaroos led at every break, and aside from a slender first-quarter lead were never threatened by the 2007 premiers, for whom Nick Baird and Christopher Whitton stood out with doubles.

The Saints have had the wood over the Nomads during the regular season, recording 75, 45 and 65 point wins in rounds two, seven and 12 respectively.

Meehan said the previous form wasn’t a worry to his troops heading into the weekend, as two of those encounters had occurred when the Nomads’ numbers were hit hit by the university holidays.

“It’s a different game every week in finals footy,” he said.

“We haven’t played Inverell this year with the side we’ll have next week.”

He said he expected a number of players to return from injury, and aside from the usual aches and cramps Saturday’s game provided no further concerns.

“We should have Josh Keogh, Nick Schultz, Peter Welton and William Webb should be available, so we’ll have a good squad to pick from.”

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