Grand Final

A warm and sunny West-Yorkshire day greeted the players and supporters of the Central and Northern England League last Saturday.

In the curtain raiser the host club, Huddersfield Rams, took on the AFL CNE Demons all-star team. The game was a perfect way to open proceedings with both teams putting in top quality performances. The game had it all: an errant bounce of the ball caused one player a very painful ‘manhood’ injury, there was a running 3-bounce goal, a couple of soccered off the ground goals, a few ‘speccies’ and a couple of hard but fair bumps to top it all off.

The AFL CNE Demons ran out winners 99 to 68. Congratulations to all who took part in the game and thanks for supporting the league on the day.

The hot weather was still sticking around at 2pm for the ball-up of the Grand Final between Nottingham and Manchester. The Mosquitoes came into the game as warm favourites due to an unbeaten season and having the wood over the Scorpions in the two games they had played previously during the year.

From the moment the ball was bounced the game was played at breakneck speed. Nottingham had two quick goals through Sam Wood and Rich Lucas before Manchester even looked like touching the ball. Against the flow of play Mike Kilheeney opened Manchester’s account with a clever snap. From there the game settled into a rhythm with both teams creating good scoring opportunities and keeping the match free-flowing. At quarter time Nottingham held a deserved 6 point lead.

The second quarter continued in the same vein with a lot of accurate passing and end-to-end plays causing nightmares for the defenders on both teams. Again though Nottingham took the initiative early with some good ruckwork from Andy Batchelor setting up Liam Oakey for a couple of centre breaks which let to two quick goals. Manchester replied with two goals from Matt Wielgosz to keep them in touch.

Again though it was Nottingham with the answers. Centre half back Andy Kraefft managed to stream forward twice in five minutes to extend the Scorpions’ lead to 18 points. With five minutes left to go in the quarter a late hit on Mozzies forward Tazz McAlister saw a Nottingham player sent off for the rest of the half. Manchester used the advantage well by kicking two late goals. At half time Nottingham had maintained their 6-point lead – 9.3 57 to 8.3 53. The second quarter saw each club kick 5 straight goals which was testament to the high quality of play.

With many expecting Manchester to win fairly comfortably the large crowd at Huddersfield were buzzing with excitement at the start of the second half. The third quarter has always been called the ‘Premiership Quarter’ as it’s where games are won and lost. Unusually though both teams stayed neck and neck and neither team pulled away with both teams trading goals for the quarter. Manchester changed to a ruck combination of McAlister and Pete Cunningham which allowed Ben Radloff to play tight on Kraeftt who was the dominant player on the ground in the first half. Going into the last change Manchester hit the lead for the first time and held a 2 point break.

The atmosphere at Lockwood Park was electric at the start of the final quarter. The first five minutes saw a lot hard work for both teams amount to not much on the scoreboard. An early goal to Wielgosz then a long set shot from Daff gave Manchester some breathing space. Nottingham attacked again but could only manage a couple of behinds for their efforts. From there on the Mosquitoes took control of the game. The Manchester defence repelled all of the Scorpion attacking plays and some fresh legs from the bench for the Mozzies enabled them to take control through the middle. Manchester had the ball up forward for the final 10 minutes but had trouble converting their dominance into goals. Eventually they kicked two late goals to put the results beyond doubt and the premiership was theirs. The final score ended up 17.11 113 to 13.6 84. Despite the final margin the game was a very tight contest. Both teams played a strong attacking brand of football with fast ball movement mixed with proper physicality.

For Nottingham Ash Swift led the way all day with a brilliant performance through the midfield, Andy Kraefft was dominant as per usual with some strong contested marks, Rich Lucas and Sam Wood kept the Mozzie defence at arms length all day, while Keith Farr was cool under pressure as usual down back.

For Manchester Ben Radloff showed why he’ll be missed next year with a great blanketing job in the second half on Kraefft. Despite not being particularly prominent during the game Matt Wielgosz somehow ended up with 11 goals. Matt Kilheeney capped off a superb season by racking up a load of possessions through the midfield.

Thanks to both teams for putting on such a great show on the day in what has been the best season of the league so far. Thanks also to Huddersfield for hosting the day. Lockwood Park is one of the most picturesque grounds there is and it made a perfect backdrop for the day.

Thanks also to the supporters of the clubs. The wives, girlfriends, family and friends who come along every week are vital to the success of the league and their support is greatly appreciated.

Click here to see shots from the day.

During the off-season most clubs will still be training regularly so stay in touch with their Facebook and Twitter accounts. AFL CNE will still be updating the website and Twitter feed. Many teams are planning friendlies during the months before Christmas so for any new players it’s a great time to get involved.

Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Manchester 3 3 8 3 13 6 17 11 113
Nottingham 4 3 9 3 13 4 13 6 84
Manchester Wielgosz 11, Daff 3, McAlister 2, Mike Kilheeney 1
Nottingham Wood, Lucas 3, Carey, Kraefft 2, A Swift, Goliah, Oakey 1
Manchester Radloff, Daff, Wielgosz, Matt Kilheeney, Hocking
Nottingham Kraefft, A Swift, Oakey, Wood, Neicho
Venue Huddersfield Date 11th August 2012
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