GNFL preliminary final preview: Grand final berth up for grabs between Northampton and Railways

Victor TantiGeraldton Guardian
Beau Walker handballs away as Ben Saunders tackles him.
Camera IconBeau Walker handballs away as Ben Saunders tackles him. Credit: Justine Rowe/SnapAction

The remaining Great Northern Football League grand final berth will be settled in Sunday’s preliminary final when Northampton take on Railways.

Heading into finals it looked like the top two — Brigades and Northampton — were a lock to face each other in the grand final.

Now, after last week’s horror show, Norths risk being shunted out of the finals in straight sets.

Their 31 points on Saturday was their lowest total in 54 finals appearances.

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But the Rams can rebound.

In April they were smashed by Rovers and seemed destined to limp into the finals and no more.

The next week, they had an unexpected win over Brigades, and it was clear player-coach Beau Walker had willing players, and Norths ended up finishing second.

Jack Cocking takes a kick.
Camera IconJack Cocking takes a kick. Credit: Barry Mitchell/SnapAction

“Last week wasn’t our best game and Brigades were very slick, but I have every confidence in our playing group,” Walker said. “We’ve been learning and trying to improve all year and we just need to have a greater effort across the board.”

Although Walker did not directly comment on Railways’ midfield, he knows that’s an area where the Blues shine.

“They have a very good spread of quality players, no question about that,” he said.

“I think the midfield is important in any game, but it’s magnified in finals.” Five of the past eight Railways and Northampton games were decided by eight points or fewer, and being at Railways’ base — the Warren Taylor Homes Rec Ground — won’t worry Norths.

They like it there.

Railways coach Karl Pirrottina said his team were battle-hardened. That they are still in the competition reflects this — their 18.6 (114) 9.13 (67) first-semi win over Rovers last Sunday was a tough battle for the first half, with only three points in it at half-time, but their tenacity told and they ran away with the game from then on.

“We lost three tough games leading into finals but played some good footy, narrowly losing to Northampton and doing well against Brigades,” Pirrottina said.

“Our games against Norths this year have been two of the best in recent times, a come-from-behind win in Northampton and they got over the line at the Rec, where lapses cost us.

“If we get first possession, starve them of clean forward entries and give ourselves chances inside our 50, we can get an advantage.

“Keys for them are Walker, (Flynn) Dillon, who’s having a great year in the ruck and (Harry) Taylor but they have a great mix of young kids as well.

“For us, it’s a bonus to have (Ben) Saunders back as he can go forward or to the midfield and we also have Beau Simpson back who plays vital roles.

“Jesse Adamini and Mitch Boyle have been good all year and add Jaigah Williams, Matt Kimberley and Saunders, and we have an experienced midfield.

“Shaeden Edwards has had a great month and a half.”

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