Sea Eagles fire into last round

Not yours: Dennis Paratene shepherds ball away from a Pambula opponent when the two clubs met earlier in the season.
Not yours: Dennis Paratene shepherds ball away from a Pambula opponent when the two clubs met earlier in the season.

Tathra’s final round in the Sapphire Coast AFL season will reflect their opening challenge in the finals as the team heads to Pambula to face the Panthers. 

Saturday’s result will have no bearing on the leaderboard, but will have a big impact on morale as both clubs head to a repeat in the opening round of finals next weekend. 

Tathra will be looking to finish the year on a high after some close losses saw the team slipping to fourth place behind Narooma, Merimbula and the Panthers. 

However, the Panthers are not likely to give up easy with club veteran Sean Smith enjoying his 200th game this weekend. 

In a career spanning 13 years at the Panthers, Smith has served in six grand finals and brought home the flag in four of those encounters. 

Two of those occasions he was a playing-coach when the Panthers went back-to-back in 2014 and 15.

"That was definitely a footy highlight for me, there is no Pambula team that has won back to back,” Smith said. 

This season, the four-time best and fairest for the Panthers is continuing his on-field excellence, but also taking a leading role as coach of the women’s side. 

"The Panthers are my second family to me" 

He has been a Panther for so long because he enjoys "The people involved in the club and the family atmosphere it brings"

Saturday will be reliving a classic rivalry for Smith. 

"I want to go out there and just get a kick and play a good game,” he said. "Tathra is my rival, because the first two years I moved here we played them in the grand final two years in a row."

Then, the results were split down the middle; "they beat us the first one in 2005, then we beat them the second one in 2006"

"I will probably be a bit nervous but I am really proud and excited to be playing, it takes a long time to get to 200."

Meanwhile, Tathra have undergone something of a reshuffle of playing positions with Luke Taylor bolstering the half-forward line, while Tom Lipsham takes charge of the defensive row. 

Shane Gartside and Troy O’Loghlin remain as the key on-ballers for the Sea Eagles. 

The Panthers will also host Tathra in the reserve and women’s draws. 

Dave Howard said the final round will be “another big game for the Eaglettes, searching for the win and two chances in the finals”. 

Pambula trail by just two points on the competition table, but Howard said the Eaglettes are ready for the contest. 

“The girls have trained well this week and are keen to learn from our close loss to Eden.

“Look for a Tathra team attacking the ball in numbers. It should be the game of the round.”

The Tathra reserves will similarly be looking to bounce back to the winners’ circle, which would shore up their place at second on the leaderboard. 

Play is at the Pambula Sporting Complex from 11.50am on Saturday.