By OSCAR PERRI
The CAFL season is down to three teams vying for this year’s premiership, with Rovers and West making strong statements in their respective wins on Saturday.
Rovers faced Federals in a top two clash to earn a spot in the grand final, and as the last time the teams met resulted in a draw, the stage was set for an exciting start to the finals.
But it was not to be, as the yet to be defeated Rovers dominated the game from early on.
Nigel Lockyer Jr looked unstoppable in the forward line, taking strong contested marks overhead and picking the ball up cleanly when it hit the ground.
The only issue he was having was with his kicking; to go with his lone goal for the quarter, he hit the post three times.
The Federals were only able to get their first look at the goals after 10 minutes of play, which only resulted in a point from Ainsley Walker, before Jayden Prior was finally able to put one through the middle around five minutes later.
Tyson Woods found his rhythm in the last 10 minutes of the quarter and kicked two goals, which were much needed as Lockyer Jr’s accuracy issues seemed to be contagious. Aside from Woods’ pair the rest of the side had scored one goal and seven behinds.
The Feds had rectified some issues and ramped up the pressure by the end of the quarter, but certainly would have felt fortunate to be only 11 points behind at the first break.
Their optimism was short lived though, as the Rovers put the foot down in the second quarter.
Lockyer Jr found a way to hit the target and added three goals to his tally, while Kurt Abbott’s dash through the midfield and neat kicking was giving him and his fellow forwards good supply of the ball.
Thanks to the ruck dominance of Daniel Gorry and William Carlile, the Federals were able to win the ball regularly out of stoppages, but whenever they tried to move it forwards there was always a Rovers defender at the drop ready to intercept and send it back the other way.
By half time, the Rovers had stretched the lead to 32 points, and while the Federals had shown grit with their tacking and contests, nothing suggested they would be doing more than chasing blue uniforms around for the rest of the afternoon.
After the break, Shane Inkamala kicked an early goal, his second, for the Federals, in what turned out to be their last for the season, as the Rovers found another gear.
The second half was a clinical display of a well oiled team, again the Rovers were happy to give their opposition first use of the ball in the middle, Braydon Weily was prolific for the Federals in that department, but as the scoreboard proves, the ball almost never made it to the goal line.
The lofty Gorry spent most of his time at full forward and looked dangerous, but his midfielders found it near impossible to get the ball over the top of the Rovers defenders at half back.
At the other end, Lockyer Jr kicked his fifth, Gareth Remfrey was running wild in the middle, and Woods brought his tally to four. Youngster Stanley Waistcoat had an excellent second half, making an impression with two goals.
The Rovers now have a week off before the grand final, while the Federals have another chance to make it if they can beat West this weekend.
Final score: Rovers 14.16.100 d Federals 4.7.31
Immediately afterwards, West and Pioneer faced off in an elimination final, with the winner to keep their season alive and play off against Federals for a spot in the grand final.
West coach Shaun Cusack had been playing with the magnets over the last week and moved star recruit Toshie Kunoth, who had spent all season playing mid-forward, into the half back line.
The surprising move turned out to be a good one, as the previously shaky West backline held their opponents to just one goal until late in the third quarter.
Kunoth did well to ignore what must have been strong instincts to chase the ball and help his team mates out, but was diligent and looked well suited to the position as a pacy rebound defender.
The West forward line was also functioning, with the forward pair of Liam Jurrah and Jasper Wheeler scoring six goals between them.
Pioneer captain Jawoyn Cole Manolis was outstanding and led a last quarter resurgence which saw them triple their goals for the game, while Thomas Swan, Tyrell Woodberry and Dylan Alice made good use of their talent for most of the game.
Final score: West 9.14.68 d Pioneer 6.10.46