AFL: 5 reasons why our Gympie Cats will win today's final
AUSSIE RULES: The rampaging Gympie Cats head into this afternoon's qualifying final against the Hervey Bay Bombers as the hottest team in the AFL Wide Bay competition, but will they be good enough to progress straight through to the big dance?
All footy-loving eyes will be on the Cats and Bombers as they add another chapter to a truly tantalising rivalry built up throughout this season, which has included four tense tussles and occasional on-field boilovers.
The Bombers have tried their best to cut through the Cats' momentum by electing to take the battle further north to Frank Coulthard Oval in Bundaberg, and some of our Fraser Coast friends seem to think the top side has it in the bag.
Here are five reasons why our Gympie boys will triumph over their arch nemesis and book their spot in the Grand Final.
FOLLOW ALL THINGS CATS THROUGH THE GYMPIE TIMES
1. Unmatched desire for the contest
IT'S been Cats coach Courtney Findlay's mantra all season long, and for most of the year the players have reflected it: winning the contested ball wins matches.
After the Round 12 Gympie-Hervey Bay melee, which resulted in Cats duo Lanze Magin and Hayden Graham copping suspensions, Findlay quickly came to their defence.
"If we strip it all back ... then contested footy is our brand,” he said.
"With that comes non-negotiability, such as: first to the football, in and under the contest, hard at the contest, strong in the contest, hunt in packs, support your teammates and physical presence.
"That's our mantra, that is our strength and that is the way we play. Regardless of the outside noise we won't be deviating from our brand. That is also a non-negotiable.”
In no way was the coach making excuses for the costly biff, but it was a powerful statement that confirmed the Cats would not be taking a backward step in their fearless approach to the contest.
2. Last time they met...
THE season series may be locked at two apiece, but the Cats can take confidence from their most recent clash with the Bombers - a 40-point thumping on their hallowed turf at Norm McLean Oval.
Returning trio Hayden Graham, Jack Cross and Dean Rawlins add plenty of firepower to an already strong and healthy Cats side, which took out both games played between the two sides at Hervey Bay.
3. Superior scorers
WHILE the Bombers boast minor premiership bragging rights because of their superior percentage, Gympie can take stock in their stronger scoring ability.
With 2285 points scored across 18 games, the Cats finished the regular season with a 67-point buffer over the Bombers, who were next best.
Hervey Bay's defensive prowess bettered both Bay Power (2nd) and the Cats (3rd), but a mid-season form slump saw Gympie leak 100 points in two straight games.
That Cats have shown no signs of conceding the dreaded ton since embarking on a six-game winning streak after the Round 12 Bombers loss.
4. Freak forward stars
THERE'S a reason why the Cats have such a good scoring record - key forward Hayden Graham (33 goals) and mosquito fleet Bronzen Rowlands and Jack Cross (34 each) have led from the front all season long.
Expect all three to cause opposition headaches in today's clash.
5. Captain courageous
THE Cats were solid up until three-quarter time of last week's win over Across the Waves, but skipper Lanze Magin took over in the last quarter, dishing out laser-like handballs and spotting up big forward Brad Forbes with daisy-cutting passes.
It's hardly a one-man band with a supporting cast including Scott Stiefler, Jesse Lawrence and Kade Kent, but no man has more impact on his team than the captain.
The Cats face the Bombers at Frank Coulthard Oval in Bundaberg from 4pm this afternoon.
Go get 'em, Catters!