LEGENDS CUP – OFFICIAL GAME PREVIEW
Despite the number of years the Legends Football League has operated in the United States, the Grand Final everyone remembers was its first. Now we are upon LFL Australia’s first-ever Grand Final set to take center stage in Perth, Australia in front of packed out NIB Stadium.
In oddity in sports as well as the LFL, a competing team in the Grand Final, in this case the Western Australia Angels will have the opportunity to play on their home grounds. After opening the season with a tough loss in Melbourne to the Victoria Maidens, Western Australia returned home where they are undefeated having beaten the former No.1 ranked New South Wales Surge on December 21, 18-20 however has created uncertainty with an unexpected loss to Queensland Brigade.
WA comes into the Grand Final, healthy and now having developed its identity of a well-balanced No.2 ranked offense led by a resurgent No.1 ranked defense. Most expected a solid offense but few would have figured this side to boast the No.1 defense led not by the US import Superstar Adrian Purnell but unknown names like Brooke Carmichael, Tash Sergi, Melissa Budd, Tessa Atkinson, linda Holland etc. The WA defense is perhaps the most athletic one unit across LFL Australia rosters, with speed, agility, great pursuit to the ball and aggressive play. Perhaps the most import stat this defense has driven is a league-leading +4 turnover ratio.
Offensively WA lives and dies by the performance of their young signal-caller Leah Turnbull who comes into the Grand Final as LFL Australia’s No.1 ranked Quarterback (NSW Quarterback, Jacinda Barclay No.2). Turnbull has been surrounded by a number of weapons that have been developed throughout the season to include young phenom Britney Were, wide receivers Tegan Brown and Tammie West as well as Adrian Purnell who has become a major weapon either out of the backfield or from the tight end position.
New South Wales has been the side to beat since the inception of LFL Australia. The Surge are a unit that has been in development for nearly two years with steady coaching, most physical roster and veteran leadership from two significant US imports in linebacker Monique Gaxiola who was recently nominated to the USA Hall of Fame as well as her mate and 2-time All-Fantasy (All-Star) defensive end, Chloe Butler.
Surge’s defense is only second to WA but have allowed two less touchdowns than WA (6 to 8). The heart and soul of this defense unexpectedly has become the 18yr. old Bronte Zeiher who comes into the Grand Final leading LFL Australia in tackles, tied for 1st place in sacks and 2nd place in interceptions. Zeiher is also a Defensive Player of the Year nominee.
On the offensive side of the ball, NSW has developed the most physical offense in LFL Australia and perhaps the best front-line in all of LFL globally. If you believe gridiron games are won and lost upfront, there is no better front line then Quincy Hewitt at tight end, Charmain Pavelka at center and Shari Onley at tight end. If the front line was not enough to scare a defense, here comes perhaps the most physical offensive players in LFL Australia including quarterback Jacinda Barclay and running back Bonnie Gillespie. Barclay only trails WA’s Turnbull in passing and Gillespie leads the league in rushing. The surprise however could be the league’s leading receiver, Corban McGregor. McGregor is a large-framed target for Barclay and has speed to get past the secondary.
For WA to win, the key will be time of possession in keeping the ball away from NSW’s offense. A good mixture of Were and Purnell running attack complimented by a couple deep attempts targeting West. Defensively, its very simple, play the most physical game of the year against the most physical team in Australia.
For NSW to win, execute on the game plan that has brought you to this point without become too one-dimensional. WA’s No.1 ranked defense is too athletic to simply rely on Gillespie shredding a 5 to 6 player front. Establish the run game to open opportunities for Barclay down the field to McGregor and/or intermediate to Onley or Gillespie. Defensively, place pressure on a very young Turnbull of WA. Test WA’s ability to protect Turnbull and more importantly, Turnbull’s heart and poise.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
STADIUM | NIB Stadium (Natural Grass)
BETTING LINE | Pick’em / Over Under 49 points
INJURIES | None