Hat-trick propels Heat to big win
THE Cooloola Heat kept their season alive on Sunday with a dominant performance in the knockout semi-final of the Sunshine Coast competition against Flinders.
Finishing the season in third, the Heat took on fourth-placed Flinders in Buderim.
"Our form had been good against Flinders in previous encounters but we knew we couldn't take them lightly," Heat player/coach Dom Stephens said.
"The game started at a fast pace and it wasn't long before John Daly busted through the middle of the field to find Jack McKean for a great deflection goal.
"Jacko was our leading goal-scorer at the start of the season but has quietened down over the last few weeks, so it was good to see his name back on the scorecard."
It was a tight battle in hot conditions after the opening goal, with the Flinders' goalkeeper making several saves to keep his side in the match and take them to half-time 1-0 down.
"We have dedicated a lot of time to fitness this year and we knew that if we kept the pace up we would have the legs to run the game out," Stephens said.
"Flinders' game plan was to throw long overheads out of their defence, and to our boys' credit we shut them down every time, giving them no real attacking opportunities.
"The cream really rose to the top for this match, with Nathan Stephens and Codey Warhurst having fantastic games in the midfield.
"They are what I would class as elite runners; they both have massive fuel tanks and can run out most opponents on any given day."
Warhurst in particular starred, with his second half hat-trick sealing the 4-0 victory for the Heat, while Joey Collins in defence and goalkeeper Patty Barnes also stood out.
The win puts Cooloola through to the preliminary final this weekend, taking on Maroochydore, which lost to minor premiers Buderim Rebels in the major semi-final on Sunday.
"We definitely aren't getting ahead of ourselves," Stephens said.
"The boys knew that 4-0 was a great victory, but in reality a lot of chances went begging and we could have easily had another three goals.
"Maroochydore are a tough team and will fight until the last minute so we will make sure to prepare for that."
The winner of the match will advance to next week's decider against Buderim.
Stephens made special mention of the local supporters that made the trip down to the Coast for Sunday's game.
"Knowing that we've got the backing of the Gympie community helps drive us to that next level."