By Grace Knight
The Bull Sharks men’s seniors have been forced into a knockout semi-final against the Burleigh Bombers after a devastating loss to the Coolangatta Tweed Blues in the first match-up of the QFA Division 2 South finals.
Exploiting their home-ground advantage, Coolangatta opened with a quick three goals, putting early pressure on the Bull Sharks.
After a floundering start, the Bull Sharks fell short in their struggle to pull back the margin, suffering a tough 94-73 loss.
From the first bounce, Coolangatta sprung into the game with intensity, seamlessly establishing their initial lead.
Despite a shaky start the Bull Sharks countered to play a strong game from quarter-time onwards.
In a tactical change to increase the Blues’ defensive workload, Bond’s midfield spread out to free up opportunities for leads, a smart strategy which significantly boosted their ball possession.
At half-time the Bull Sharks’ attacking approach evened up the match, Bond playing goal-for-goal against the Blues.
Half-forward Jack Tilley played a sensational game, contributing to more than half the Bull Sharks’ score.
Jayden Pengelly was another stand-out player in Bond’s forward lines, working tirelessly around the ball and providing countless assists.
Key centre players Matthew Smith and Nathan Rataj both displayed excellent skill around the ball and were integral in winning many contests.
Harry Ireland and Jackson Ferres worked well in their ruck positions and were key in numerous stoppages against Coolangatta’s general height advantage.
Harry Ireland and Jay Meany were both back from injury for the match, returning from concussion and an ankle injury respectively, and their enthusiasm was clear.
Ireland was all over the ball and took the fight to the Blues at every opportunity. Meany played an excellent two quarters before unfortunately tweaking his other ankle just before half time. He’s expected to make a return in time for next weekend’s semi-final.
Grant Drew is still out with an ankle injury after three weeks off the field but is expected to make a full recovery for next weekend’s game.
WHAT IT MEANS
The loss means the Bull Sharks face a knockout semi-final next weekend against the Burleigh Bombers.
A win over Burleigh will provide them with a place in the preliminary final, however another loss will see them out for the season.
WHAT THEY SAID
Head coach John Chenhall said the game was a major learning curve for the side and he’s keen to see them work on their starts and hold on to their enthusiasm heading into the semi-final.
“We still played an excellent game of football and I think it’s taught us that we really just need to work on our starts,” he said.
“Everyone still has high spirits after the game. Obviously the first quarter was no good, but pushing that aside, we really held our own after that.”
Chenhall said beating Coolangatta at Coolangatta is one of the most difficult feats in the competition.
“I think if we can get them on a bigger ground and get them away from home, we can definitely turn it around next time,” he said.
IN OTHER GAMES
The men’s reserves’ loss to the Carrara Saints 63-50 will see them face a knockout semi-final next weekend.