The Moruya Sharks suffered their heaviest defeat of the season on Sunday, losing to the Bombala Blue Heelers by 42 points in the first week of Group 16’s finals series.
Moruya traveled to Bombala with a much weakened team from that which played the previous week. Halfback Gavin Olive had not recovered from his leg injury, fellow playmaker Aaron Brierley was missing due to suspension, and Toby Afflick was out with an ankle injury.
A number of players were also suffering from the flu bug sweeping the coast as well as all the niggling injuries common at this time of year.
Coach Neil Williams had to juggle his available troops into uncommon positions to field what on paper was still a competent team. They were up against a big strong Bombala team who have found good form late in the season.
Moruya had a strong wind at its back for the first half, but with Brierley and Olive missing, they did not have the kicking game to capitalise. Too much dropped ball allowed Bombala to have the better of field position for much of the first half.
When Moruya lost forward leaders Tim Weyman and Adam Scott early in the half, much of their go forward was gone.
Bombala scored twice off Moruya mistakes and went to half time up 12-0.
If Moruya were to get back into the game, it needed to score first in the second half. However another lost ball early in a set gifted the Blue Healers field position and they raced over for an early try, giving them an 18-0 lead with 35 minutes left to play.
The balance of the second half seemed a carbon copy of the Bega game the previous week. The Sharks would work themselves into good field position but turn it over at the wrong time either by a loose pass or a poor kick, and Bombala scored three long-distance tries off the crumbs offered.
The final score of 42-0 flattered the home side, but they were very strong defensively, and must be considered a genuine chance for the Premiership if they can improve their attack.
The Sharks are still alive for season 2018, and will take on a red-hot Tigers’ side in an elimination final next Saturday at Ack Weyman Oval.
Coach Williams will need to rally his troops for what shapes as a very interesting clash. He was bitterly disappointed at his players lack of ball control and would not accept illness, injury, or the drama of Aaron Brierley’s suspension as excuses for simple fundamental errors.
He knows that even with players out, he has a strong squad of talented footballers who can still win this premiership, if they believe in themselves and work hard for each other.
For the Sharks, Zac Ingram was outstanding, a stint in the sin bin for dissent notwithstanding. Jacob Hope-Hodgetts played himself to a standstill as the only prop left on the team, and these two should be highly commended.