Panthers, Brothers go head-to-head in first AFL semi
AUSSIE RULES: Panthers have lost their past three games but coach Tommy Kneen is confident they can arrest that form in tomorrow's knock-out semi-final against Brothers.
Injury, illness and player unavailability have depleted the Panthers playing list in the latter stages of the season but those challenging times have given rise to some emerging young talent.
Teenage trio Victor Fitzgerald, Andrew Kapernick and Liam Maxwell have stepped up to and acquitted themselves well in A-grade in the past few weeks and will get to taste finals football tomorrow.
Panthers have had the better of Brothers this year, winning two of their three meetings, but it was Brothers who won their most recent a fortnight ago.
The winner of tomorrow's semi will go on to play the loser of next week's major semi-final between Yeppoon and BITS.
Kneen is proud of the team's performance this season. Panthers won just two games last season but won eight this year to finish third on the AFL Capricornia ladder.
He knows they will be in for a real challenge tomorrow against an in-form Brothers team which has also shown some dramatic improvement to go from competition wooden spooners last year to finals footy this year.
"We're not in our best form but hopefully we can turn it around on Saturday,” Kneen said.
"I know the boys will go out there and have a really good go.
"Brothers have been playing some good footy the last couple of weeks. They've hit some good form at the right end of the season.
"The last time we played them we struggled to score off our inside 50 entries so we're looking to make sure we work harder around that area.
"Brothers play a fairly physical game but if we attack the ball hard we stand a good chance.”
Kneen will look to Jaxson Pringle, Kale Oxenham and Levi Davenport to provide some good structure for Panthers, Matt Neason to control the defence and Rob McShane to contest the ball well through the middle.
He said Panthers would also be focused on shutting down Brothers' danger men Xavier Frost, Scott Smithwick and Brent Wood.
Kneen is expecting a tight contest, and will be encouraging his players to enjoy the experience.
"The main message will be don't leave anything to chance and give it your all,” he said.
"I'm excited and I'm confident it will be a really good game.”
The game starts at 2.15pm tomorrow at Stenlake Park.