Originally written by IAN LEWIS
CASTERTON staved off a fast-finishing North Gambier to win its qualifying final by 16 points and advance to next Saturday’s all-important semi-final clash with the undefeated Hamilton Imperials outfit.
But, the Cats did not have it all their own way against spirited opposition but its better use of the ball, coupled with the dominance of full-forward Jack Gartlan, who finished with five good goals in his comeback game after missing many weeks with a hamstring injury, gave it the edge over the SA Tigers.
Gartlan kicked the first three goals of the game that set up a good buffer for the home side and that forced North to play catch-up football for the remainder of the game. At quarter-time Casterton led 3.4 to 1.1 and North looked to be in trouble because its forward line had not functioned and its running players could not get into the game.
Beside Gartlan, Casterton had strong players in Jock Cleary, Daniel Wombwell, Brandon Currie, Will Richardson, Jason Cowland, Jacob Shannon, Jake Zippel, Liam Gill and Cody Ireland and they dominated the air and around the ground with slick hand and foot passes.
The second quarter was a real battle of the defences as both teams tried to apply some forward pressure. The ball moved from one end to the other as defenders from both teams threw themselves at the ball and denied their opponents any chance of kicking a major score.
Casterton kicked 1.1 to three behinds to go into the long break with a comfortable 19-point lead, 4.5 to 1.4.
North came out in the third term determined to give the Cats a run for their money and they succeeded.
Gartlan kicked his fourth within 30 seconds of the resumption then Sam McKenzie took a good mark 30 metres out and converted to give Casterton a handy 31-point lead and the game looked as good as over. North responded will a much-needed goal a minute later, but Gartlan chipped in with a good mark and kicked his fifth and the margin was still 32 points.
Then the Cats seemed to run out of puff and were second to the ball, gave away several unnecessary free kicks, stopped running as hard and made numerous handball errors that went astray. This let North back into the match and they responded by booting three quick goals and at the last break trailed by a mere 14 points, 7.7 to 5.5.
The last quarter was anyone’s game. North booted the first goal after the resumption to move within eight points of the Cats and an upset looked on the cards. The Cats peppered the goals but were not accurate enough to post majors until McKenzie took an excellent grab on the goal line from a set shot by Currie at the 20-minute of the last term and kicked the goal that sealed the game.
The Cats played good football, apart from a period of 15 minutes when it seemed to have lost the plot in the third term, but responded well when under pressure in the last quarter.
Next Saturday’s clash with Imperials is an important game for the youngsters. They have played them twice this season and struggled, but this is finals football and anything can happen. Gartlan will be better after Saturday’s run and should trouble the Imps defence.
Goal kickers: Jack Gartlan 5, Sam McKenzie 2, Alex O’Connell.
Best: Will Richardson, Jock Cleary, Brandon Currie, Jack Gartlan, Jake Shannon, Jake Galpin.