GNFL Finals: Who’s looking the best for the flag and who is up against it

Headshot of Jake Santa Maria
Jake Santa MariaGeraldton Guardian
Railways' Jesse Adamini gets a kick away.
Camera IconRailways' Jesse Adamini gets a kick away. Credit: Justine Rowe Around the Traps

The 2022 GNFL regular season has come to a close and attention now turns squarely to the finals series which will start this Saturday.

Whether you are a diehard Blues fan or a one-eyed Rams supporter, find out who is the favourite and why your team can and why that can’t go all the way this year.

The Favourite: Railways

For much of the season, Railways were the pacesetters this year and they finished at the top of the ladder a game and nearly 30 percentage points clear of Brigades in second.

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They finished the season with four straight wins including a 22-point win over Brigades, who they will face this weekend, and a 28-point win in over fellow contender Rovers in a wet weather arm-wrestle.

They averaged over 92 points per game while conceding an average of 56 against and are odds-on favourite to win the JJ Clune medal.

Jesse Adamini finished third on the goal-kicking list with 40 — his best-ever haul for the club — and he also received 11 best player nominations, the same as last year but in four fewer games.

They have not lost a game in which he has kicked more than one goal, and after a relatively lean period kicked a bag of six in their thumping of Mullewa in their last regular season game.

Jack Cocking has been excellent in just his third senior year and Alex Newton and Elliot Delaney offer great alternatives should he be tagged out.

They have a formidable engine room with an excellent blend of youth and experience with the likes of Mitchell Boyle, Ryan Le Tessier and Matthew Kimberly.

There will also be some added emotions as club great Kyle Watts prepares to retire at the end of the year just to add that extra piece of motivation.

The main thing working against them is themselves as the Blues have an abysmal finals record.

They have finished in the top four in every season since their last flag in 2012 but have only won five out of a possible 18 finals and been on the losing end of four grand finals in that time.

But coach Matthew Powell believes they can overcome the pressure.

“We as coaches put pressure on the players each week to perform at their very best, the players themselves also apply pressure on each other which brings the best out them at training and also game day, so not much changes for us just because it’s a final,” he said.

Brigades’ Hayden Johnson and Rovers’ Dwayne Nevill.
Camera IconBrigades’ Hayden Johnson and Rovers’ Dwayne Nevill. Credit: Arctic Moon Photography

The Challenger: Brigades

Brigades got an important win in their final round to change the atmosphere around the group as they prepare to take on Railways for the fourth time this season.

After looking the goods when Railways faltered in the middle of the year, Brigades lost two on the bounce to both Rovers and Railways and a third loss in a row to a top-four team could have really given doubters something to chew on.

But they dominated the Rams to show their best can beat anyone, led as they have been for many years by Dale Williamson with a four-goal haul.

Williamson will be key as the 800-goal veteran shows no signs of slowing down once again, topping the goal-kicking charts with 50 and has not been held goalless at any point this year.

He has formed a great tag team with electric high-flyer Kristerfer Ryder, who averaged three goals in his last six games.

They have a midfield to rival that of Railways with ball winners Klay Sipila, Hayden Johnson, Erinn McCartney and Jack Deschamp all having excellent years

Whether they can find a way past Railways however remains to be seen as they were locked down well in their previous meeting.

They also perhaps don’t have as many reliable options up forward outside of their main one-two combo but that might be enough for the reigning premiers if they can get on a roll and with the double chance do have a safety net.

Dylan Corbett gets the handball away.
Camera IconDylan Corbett gets the handball away. Credit: Snapaction

The Outsiders: Rovers & Northampton

According to stats expert Victor Tanti no team has won the flag from the first semi since 1996, so history is against both Rovers and Rams to claim the flag this year.

Rovers have comfortably won both their previous meetings with the Rams and will have a home ground advantage the first final.

They have good recent form with three wins and though thumping of Mullewa and Towns may be hard to read into their performance against the Hawks when their top four spot was on the line was excellent.

The Demons have struggled with availability throughout the year but have now got close to their best side on the park with stars like Gabriel Parfitt, Joseph Ugle and Glen Prosser all playing important roles.

Whether they have the legs to run deep in September remains to be seen, and coach Ian Comben has often cited a lack of numbers at training throughout the season which may come back to bite them.

This brings us to Rams who fell to fourth after a disappointing display against Brigades as they were held goalless for the second half.

They have only beaten the top four sides twice this year in impressive back-to-back performances over Railways and Brigades but outside of those they have been found wanting.

Nathaniel Mourambine can still rip apart a game on his day and Trent Simpson is in good form and they have class in the middle with Tyler Caddy and Dylan Corbett.

But you feel they will have to do a lot of heavy lifting and lack the depth of other squads and with the added travel they have the toughest assignment.

Railways will bounce down against Brigades at the Recreation Ground at 2.10pm on Saturday. Rovers and Northampton will play at Greenough on Sunday at 2.10pm

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