READ MORE - SATURDAY SCOREBOARD - August 24, 2019
DESPITE being restricted to just three senior games during the home and away season, Colbinabbin's Daniel Connors stepped straight back into the line-up on Saturday and proved a HDNFL qualifying final match-winner against Lockington-Bamawm United.
Through a mix of hamstring and calf injuries, Connors' last senior game for the Grasshoppers had been more than two months earlier on June 22 against Elmore.
But you wouldn't have known he'd been sidelined for such a lengthy period given the profound impact he had against the Cats.
Not that it should come as any surprise given Connors did spend six years in the AFL system with Richmond. Despite having endured an injury-ravaged past two years at both Colbinabbin and Sandhurst, he showed that when he's up and about, he's near unstoppable.
Connors booted seven goals - he could have had another five - and gave up a couple as well to his team-mates in Colbinabbin's 20.9 (129) to 15.10 (100) win.
"He's been right for a couple of weeks, but we've been managing him," Colbinabbin coach Julian Bull said.
"He was fantastic today, but it wasn't just the goals he kicked. He brought some of the boys into the game as well... I remember him taking some marks and giving off to Cooper Hamilton and Hugh Hamilton, so that was really pleasing as well."
You would have got long odds early in the second quarter for a Colbinabbin win by nearly five goals given the start the Cats made on a warm day at Gunbower.
The Cats' speed and frenetic ball movement always shaped as the biggest danger to the Grasshoppers and the warning bells were ringing early for Colbinabbin.
Just as they had done in both their home and away encounters when they led 55-19 and 42-7 at quarter-time, the Cats again got the jump and were in front 46-19 at the first break.
Nathan Bacon in the middle and Jarrod Bacon on a wing set the Cats alight in the first term and by quarter-time six LBU players had already kicked goals - Jacob Gardiner, Thomas Leech (two), Zeik Johnston, Sam Wolfe, Lachan Collins in his 100th game and ruckman Tyler Phillips.
And after the Cats had kicked two of the first three goals of the second term, their lead was out to 33 points at the nine-minute mark.
At that stage it was looking how far the Cats - but then came a stunning turnaround.
Having been beaten out of the middle early the Grasshoppers gained the ascendancy in the centre, closed down the Cats' run and hit the scoreboard.
Over the last 24 minutes of the quarter the Grasshoppers booted seven goals to one - Connors kicked three of them - and by half-time had not only wiped the 33-point deficit, they were five points in front.
That then set up a second half that ebbed and flowed, with two more goals to Connors having the Grasshoppers out to a 14-point advantage at the 14-minute mark of the third quarter.
But against the tide the Cats rallied, kicking three consecutive goals through Leech, Patrick Gardiner and Gavin Broad and by three quarter-time they were back in front by four points.
A pair of marks and goals to Joss Howlett in the first three minutes of the final term extended the Cats' lead to 16 points, 100-84, and just like the second quarter the question was being asked of the Grasshoppers.
And just like the second term with their backs to the wall, the Grasshoppers dug deep and ran the Cats off their feet, booting the last seven goals of the game to charge into the second semi-final next Saturday against North Bendigo.
"We've spoken all year right from our training camp that we play with a never-say-die attitude. Going in at quarter-time I was disappointed with our output, but I always knew we'd grind our way back into it,'' Bull said.
As well as Connors' seven, the Grasshoppers also had Matt Riordan (three), Nick Knight (two) and Nat Nixon (two) kick multiple goals, while midfielder Todd Bryant with 30-plus possessions and 10 tackles was hugely influential.
LBU coach Kahl Oliver was bitterly disappointed with the result given the Cats clearly had the game on their terms early.
"When you're up by five goals and then lose by five goals, that's really disappointing," Oliver said.
"Our attack on the footy was brilliant early, but from halfway through the second quarter they made us look slow and they were able to kick their goals a lot easier than we did."
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