NEAFL: Queanbeyan Tigers vs Ainslie
From left: Tigers Player Matt Liddle, attempts to tackle Ainslie player Aaron Vandenberg. Photo: Jamila Toderas
Ainslie coach Chris Rourke is proud of his club's efforts to make the NEAFL finals, given the large loss of key talent at the end of last season.
The Tricolours cemented their spot in the top six with a hard-fought, 17-point win against rivals Queanbeyan in the rain and mud at Dairy Farmers Park on Sunday.
Just a little bit of class separated the two sides in the final quarter, with Ash Harris and Aaron Vandenberg especially prolific around the ground.
The Tigers held a slender two-point lead going into the last, thanks to third-quarter goals to Brett Fruend, Matthew Grocott and Matthew Bernasconi – although it could have been a bigger lead but for a steadier from Chris Barrie (three goals).
Ainslie's Nick Heyne won the first clearance of the final term and found Nick Salter, who kicked truly.
It was the only time Salter got away from Tigers captain Ryan Quade.
Ainslie utility Damien Bowles then kicked his second, before Nic Paine had a rare touch to seal the game from a free kick for a great tackle on Todd Dickinson.
Queanbeyan co-coach Josh Bryce did a great job keeping the usually damaging Paine quiet.
''It's a fantastic effort, isn't it? People forget we've lost six of our top 10 [from last year] and for the club to continue to play finals that's a huge effort,'' Rourke said.
''We've been fortunate that some of our lesser lights have really come on in [ruckman Mitchell] Mulroney, [Shaun] Campbell and those blokes – [Jeremy] Hirst was really good today.''
Tigers onballer Will Griggs, playing his 100th senior game, made an impassioned plea to his teammates at the final break to win their final NEAFL game against their arch-rivals.
It highlighted the NEAFL will lose much more than just two Canberra teams next season, with Queanbeyan and Belconnen withdrawing, but almost 90 years of rivalries as well.
The Tigers junior now faces a tough decision: stay with the club he has played for since he was a kid or move to Ainslie or Eastlake and continue at the NEAFL level.
''Ainslie and Queanbeyan have always had a good rivalry and it would've been good to get over the top of them in this last NEAFL game against them, but obviously it wasn't our day today,'' Griggs said.
''They're a pretty quality outfit. I think we did our best and it's a shame to let that one slip.''
Ainslie will find out this week how long skipper Rob Tuohey will be out for, following scans on his ankle on Monday.
AT A GLANCE
Queanbeyan 1.3 6.3 9.8 9.10 (64)
Ainslie 2.4 8.4 9.6 12.9 (81)
Goals – Queanbeyan: K. Klemke 2, B. Fruend 2, M. Bernasconi 2, W. Griggs, A. Swan, M. Grocott; Ainslie: C. Barrie 3, D. Bowles 2, N. Heyne, N. Paine, N. Salter, J. Hirst, J. Rice, J. Costigan, E. Stone.
Best – Queanbeyan: J. Bryce, L. Greenwell, W. Griggs, N. Kerlin, M. Bernasconi, T. Conroy; Ainslie: I. Lawless, A. Harris, A. Vandenberg, C. Barrie, M. Mulroney, C. Bernasconi.