Standout performances from captain Gavin Grose and midfielder Jordan Harper has steered the NEAFL to a thrilling 17-point victory over Tasmania in their representative clash at Blundstone Arena on Saturday.
Grose was formidable in defence, repelling several Tasmanian attacks as the NEAFL won an arm wrestle 8.7 (55) to 5.8 (38).
The NEAFL led from start to finish, but were made to work by a relentless Tasmanian outfit who continually threatened to turn the match in their favour on the home turf.
Vice-captain Jordan Harper (33 disposals, seven clearances, one goal) and NEAFL MVP leader Jordan Keras (30 disposals, 14 tackles, eight clearances) were superb in the clinches to also feature among the NEAFL’s best players.
Grose, who has now equalled the record for most NEAFL representative appearances, said it was a victory he hoped would pave a bright future for the competition.
“It was a low-scoring game, a highly contested game with a heap of tackles, so it was nice to get the win,” he said.
“It was a great foundation for future games - we can only improve from here. I look forward to what we can achieve in the coming years.
“I think the big thing is respect nation-wide. Everyone talks about the SANFL, VFL and the WAFL, but no one mentions the NEAFL.
“Hopefully if we keep producing these performances, more people will take us seriously.”
Bart McCulloch was first to strike in the opening term, but scores were soon level when Southport’s Andrew Boston snapped his first of three goals for the game.
The NEAFL led by five points at quarter-time and appeared to open the match up in the second when three consecutive majors – including an incredible effort from Boston from the boundary line – pushed the margin out to a game-high 24 points.
But, Tasmania weren’t going down without a fight, drawing within 10 points deep into the third.
Harper extended the NEAFL’s advantage to 16 on the stroke of three-quarter time, but again Tasmania got within 10 points through Jaye Bowden at the nine-minute mark of the last.
It took a steadying goal from Sydney University forward Xavier Richards to give the NEAFL some breathing space, where they were able to hold on for a morale-boosting victory.
TSL v NEAFL at Blundstone Arena
NEAFL: 2.1 5.4 7.5 8.7 (55)
TSL: 1.2 2.5 4.7 5.8 (38)
GOALS – NEAFL: A Boston 3, J Harper, D Bonney, X Richards, J Anthony, T Barrett. TSL: J Bowden, B Walsh, B Cox-Goodyer, B McCulloch, T Standen.
BEST – NEAFL: G Grose, J Harper, J Keras, R Hebron, D Bonney, S Tape. TSL: T Couch, C Duffy, B Webb, J Bowden, J Lockhart, N McKenna.