BOTH Spell and Gypsy Collective Byron Bay Wildcats teams found out just how tough finals can be when they fronted up to play the cream of their respective competitions last weekend.
Things kicked off on Friday night when the Division 3 Wildcats took on the Bangalow Bluedogs at the Bay's home paddock in an elimination semi-final.
The Cats were once again forced to take the field without their star midfield combination of Eva Salmon and Nambi Rembe.
The first half was an exciting affair and despite many close shaves at both ends, the teams went to half-time 0-0.
While the Bay had their moments in the second half, it was the Dogs who started putting together attacking combinations that had the Byron Bay defensive line looking nervous.
At the second half, the Bangalow forwards capitalised on a well- directed corner slipping the ball into the back of the Bay's net.
The Wildcats never recovered and had lost control over the midfield, allowing Bangalow to dominate for the rest of the half with a final score of 1-0, sending the Wildcats out of the competition.
The Division 2 Wildcats met the competition's premier team, Mullumbimby-Brunswick Valley FC, at the Mullumbimby grounds on Sunday in their qualifying semi-final.
The Wildcats had no less than three essential midfield stars unavailable and other players missing through injury, with numbers made up by many thirds players backing up after Friday night.
The game started at frantic pace, with Lisa Bolt breaking clear and scoring for the Bay only five minutes into the game.
A well-worked passing move saw the Mullum crew score an equaliser only moments later.
Despite their lack of experience in the midfield, the Bay managed to put together many threatening raids, with only great keeping and the woodwork preventing a second goal sneaking through.
Mullumbimby on the other hand were able to convert one of their many attacks going into the break 2-1 up.
The second half was a different story the Mullum midfield grinding the Bay's midfield down and winning key contests in this essential part of the pitch.
As a result, the Wildcats offensive line became starved of opportunities while the Mullumbimby front line became more confident and dangerous.
Despite Danni Rowland scoring cracker of a goal for the Wildcats midway through the half, the Mullum crew were only just starting.
Over the final 20 minutes, Mullumbimby put four more goals onto the scoreboard.
Under a withering Mullumbimby spring sun, a wilting Byron Bay were often found leaving their defensive line of Bella Leckie, Grace Pattison, Movie Song, Mel Bradshaw and Ekala Boyd stranded.
Mullumbimby were brilliant on the afternoon and fully deserve their automatic passage into the Grand Final.
Every Wildcat, however, showed enough on the pitch to indicate that if they can win through to the grand final, after an elimination match next week, and face Mullumbimby again with full midfield intact, they will be able to give the Mullumbimby crew a serious battle for the grand final.
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