Finley lost no credibility despite losing their first game of the year to 2017 grand finalist Numurkah on Saturday in their round six Murray League clash.
In recent seasons Finley have struggled coming off a bye and the players were keen to turn this around at Numurkah
The game started well for the visitors with Zech Cuppens, Lachy Small and Ed Barlow linking well in the midfield.
Forward pressure caused a turnover and it was captain Small who pounced and opened the scoring.
The Blues replied with a snap off the pack in the goal square.
A run-down tackle from behind by speedy forward Marc Shaw saw Robb Jewell kick the Cats’ second. This saw the margin at seven points at the first break.
The Blues bounced out of the interval the better of the two sides by quickly scoring two goals after a Cats turnover across half back saw the home side out to a 10 point lead.
The Cats were being challenged by the smaller, quicker home side who were running in waves.
Jesse McDonald was able to snap one in the goal square, and in time-on had another shot on goal from 40m which faded late giving the Blues an 11-point half-time lead.
Again it was Numurkah who goaled first after the break as they dominated the stoppages. Finley needed to lift in this area.
Tim McKenzie along with Small were providing plenty of drive, racking up possessions across the centre.
Enter veteran Kyle Russell who ignited the Cats with a clever goal and the game lifted a notch.
Some heavy tackling saw Small collected high and a free kick to Jewell also resulted in a major for Matt Wilson — two goals in a minute and the margin was back to five points.
A reply from Numurkah steadied the scoreline until Russell goaled again.
A skewered kick off the side of the boot fell fortuitously to Blues forward Gunning for his third of the match.
Scott Sherwen played forward and had threatened all game and in a dominant period he clunked a couple of marks and converted consecutive goals.
The margin was now one point in favour of the visitors at the final change.
Numurkah again scored the first major after the break.
The Cats were down to one rotation with Shaun Kable taking no part since the 10 minute mark of the second quarter due to a hamstring injury.
Wilson and Cuppens were both unable to finish the match due to Deb Ball commitments, and when Barlow limped off with a recurring groin injury Cats coach Rob Daniel had no bench.
But the Finley players continued to surge.
Jewell picked out Sherwen who pushed the shot wide.
The backline led by brothers Cam and Nick Robertson defended strongly all day and intercept marks were a feature of their play, and with rebounders Paul Massingham and Tom McCarney on top many of the Cats’ scoring opportunities were instigated in the defensive 50.
A late goal to Shaw gave the Cats a flicker of hope but it was left to too few in the end to carry the team.
Final scores, Finley 9.7 (61) to Numurkah 10.12 (72).
Daniel said his players put in a quality performance against a strong side.
‘‘I’m happy with the effort. We took it right to them.
‘‘Our pressure particularly in the first and third quarters was really good, but when the pressure wasn’t 100 per cent Numurkah cut us up a bit.
‘‘Their run was very good all game and caught us off guard a couple of times.’’
Daniel praised to Nick Robertson’s effort in the ruck.
‘‘He was up against two big ruckmen and was able to match them pretty well throughout the game.
‘‘We’re not sure what we’ll get from Mulwala (this weekend) as they’ve had a bit of an up and down season so far.’’
Finley will need to get the job done without Barlow (groin) and Kable (hamstring).
‘‘Some of our younger players who have stepped up this year need to find a way to try and take that extra step to fill in Ed and Shaun’s roles,’’ Daniel said.