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11 September 2019
By Colin MacGillivray
Ararat and Southern Mallee Giants are the only teams left in the way of a perfect Wimmera Football League season by Minyip-Murtoa.
The Rats and Giants will battle it out in Sunday’s preliminary final at Dimboola for the right to challenge the Burras for the flag.
Minyip-Murtoa will take a week’s rest and plenty of confidence onto the big stage after a clinical 12.10 (82) to 8.7 (55) win against the Giants during Saturday’s second semi-final at Stawell’s Central Park.
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Minyip-Murtoa’s full-ground pressure – one of its biggest strengths this season – was on full display as the Giants struggled to move the ball with any fluency.
The Burras made them pay on the rebound, as Brayden Ison, Nick Kelson and Brad Inglis kicked seven goals between them. Brothers Tim and Ben McIntyre found plenty of the football and co-captain Luke Chamberlain was excellent in defence.
For the Giants, it was half backs Sam White and Sam Weddell in the thick of the action for a second straight week, but whereas the pair was able to consistently set up attacking moves in their first final against Ararat, on Saturday they were on the back foot.
Josh Webster was a lone standout up forward with four goals, and Weddell snuck forward to kick two.
Giants coach Coleman Schache paid credit to a dominant team performance by Minyip-Murtoa, saying his team needed to improve if it hoped to face the Burras in a grand final rematch.
“They played to their game plan really well and we couldn’t get the ball moving the way we would have liked,” he said.
“They moved the ball from one end of the ground to the other and scored pretty fluently, and we couldn’t do the same at our end.”
While the Giants overcame Ararat two weeks ago, Schache said he expected a much more competitive showing from the Rats on Sunday.
Ararat, for its part, looked sharp in a 10.7 (67) to 6.8 (44) win against Horsham Saints in windy conditions at Nhill’s Davis Park.
With midfield-forward Jack Ganley running hard to break the lines and Jake Williamson collecting the footy at will across half back, the team was able to overcome a 14-point quarter time deficit.
Cooper Heard was a handy inclusion for the Rats with three goals, as was Cody Lindsay in the ruck.
With the Saints missing number one ruckman Michael Rowe, they turned to centre half forward Angus Martin to pinch hit.
While Martin was solid, the Saints lacked his presence in the forward line as Nick Caris became their only marking target.
Caris kicked two goals and took some good contested marks, but the rest of the forward line failed to fire.
Saints coach Luke Fisher lamented a poor performance, but said his team had a bright future.
“There are heaps of young guys playing their first year of senior footy,” he said.
“I think we had four under-17 players and you wouldn’t know, because it wasn’t them dragging the chain.”
Ararat coach Shane Fisher was pleased with his side’s response to a tough loss to the Giants in the first week of finals.
He said the Rats had learned some lessons from the encounter and were determined to put forth an improved performance on Sunday.
“In home and away you’ve got a lot of time to be able to work on things, but in finals as a coach you’re a bit concerned when you put in an ordinary one,” he said.
“I put a lot of faith in the group this week and I think they all repaid it to themselves.
“We were good against the Giants in patches, so we go into next week confident that if we play to our strengths we can beat them.
“They’re probably a little bit stronger than us, but if we can tidy up some things that we learnt last time and that we tidied up against the Saints, we give ourselves a chance.”
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