Despite the wet weather, nothing could rain on the Moree Suns juniors’ parade after they secured a spot in their third consecutive grand final with a win against rivals Inverell Saints in Saturday’s major semi-final.
It was their first wet weather game this year and, despite the deep puddles and slippery ball, the Suns managed to come out on top in the low-scoring game, defeating the Saints 4.9-33 to 3.8-26.
Moree’s Daniel Brown opened the scoring in the first quarter with a goal. The Suns had further shots on goal but the wet conditions made accuracy difficult, leading to six behinds in the remainder of the first quarter, while the Saints scored one goal.
With the ball becoming increasingly heavy as the match progressed due to the rain, the Suns were unable to score a goal in the second and third quarters, scoring only three behinds.
Moree Suns AFL Club president Shane Hadley said the lack of accuracy in the first half had the potential to cause issues as the Saints scored goals in the second and third quarters, edging ahead at the end of the third quarter by eight points.
“Wet conditions meant maintaining possession for both teams was difficult,” he said.
“There was a lot of scrappy play with the ball on the ground and very few marks taken, meaning there was a lot of on-the-ground contests for the ball, extreme difficulty picking it up and not many easy clearances when in possession.”
The wet weather forced the Suns to adjust their play style and saw them rely on handballing more than usual in order to maintain possession as long runs down the field and marking the ball was difficult.
Despite this, Hadley said the Suns attacked and defended well.
“They spent the majority of the match in their own attacking half but when the Saints pressed forward, they had the capacity to fall back and contain the Saints’ forwards,” he said.
The ball rotation for the fourth quarter saw better movement as the ball wasn’t as damp and heavy.
“We were able to get better flight off the ball and more effective clearances,” Hadley said.
“Accuracy improved with three goals scored and no behinds.”
In the final minutes of the game, the Saints had a good opportunity to score off a penalty, however the wet conditions had worsened and the football was once again heavy, which prevented the kicker to get the height over Moree’s defence.
Some scrappy play in the Saints’ scoring area looked like it would bring the scores close in the last minute, but good Suns’ defence allowed Will Caccianiga to clear the ball out to Jack Montgomery who kicked it 50 metres downfield with five seconds to spare.
Hadley said the Moree boys played well, considering they fielded the minimum players required to play a match (12), while the Saints had a bench of seven.
The Suns also suffered a number of injuries, with one players coming over with a hamstring injury sustained in the previous week’s game, while two others developed cramping in the first half, affecting the team’s overall mobility.
Special mention went to Brayden Macey, Spike Clements, Lindsay Vandriest, Bodhi Hardy, Corey Baker and Will Caccianiga, who all had top games.
“Brayden Macey played a great role in defence for the first three quarters, with effective one-on-one contests when the Saints got the ball down into their attacking 50 and taking some good marks in the challenging conditions,” Hadley said.
“Spike Clements had a shot on goal which only missed due the great work of a Saints defender who smothered the attempt.
“Lindsay Vandriest rucked effectively for the Suns, winning a number of centre contests which allowed the Suns to attack at the commencement of play.
“Bodhi Hardy effectively marked in defence with a number of good hits in contesting the ball.
“Corey Baker’s attacking efforts improved throughout the match when he continued to push from full forward into centre in order to provide attacking opportunities to his teammates.
“Will Caccianiga covered extensive ground in his efforts to support teammates and receive when the opportunity presented itself. He took over role of fullback in final quarter, where the Saints failed to score a goal.”
The Suns will now have a week off before heading into the grand final on Saturday, September 8. This will be the third year in a row that the Suns have made the grand final, and will be looking to reclaim their premiership after winning in 2016.