By Norm Nugent
Preliminary Final Sunday saw the two games played in good football conditions which enriched the standard of play. This weekend we will see the climax of the season with the playing of the two Grand Finals. A significant feature will be the lack of an Old Xaverian team on the field. For over a generation Xaverian teams have dominated this competition. Now the King is dead. Long live the King. Does a new era dawn today?
Review of Preliminary Finals
St Francis Xavier started the better against Old Xaverians and built an early lead, which could have been greater but for nervous inaccuracy. At the first change, St Francis held an eight point advantage. The second quarter saw the St Francis inaccuracy continue. However their defenders rose to their challenge and kept the “Crocodiles” to a single goal for the quarter. At half time, St Francis held the lead by fifteen points. Ascendancy in the vital third quarter lay with Old Xaverians whose five goals to three for the quarter brought them to within five points of the lead at the last change. Thus the stage was set for a memorable final quarter, which developed into a low scoring affair with each team kicking only one goal. Again St Francis inaccuracy detracted from their playing advantage although their nine extra scoring shots enabled them to defeat Old Xaverians by nine points. St Francis cause was again well served by the consistent play of Brendan O’Hara and Nathaniel Welsh, who each kicked two goals.
West Brunswick earned the right to challenge Old Geelong for the Premiership when they led throughout against Monash Blues, who finished thirty two points in arrears. West Brunswick opened an early lead and held Monash scoreless in the first quarter. More dominance by the “Magpies” continued through the second quarter so that at half time, West Brunswick held a match winning lead of twenty nine points. The third quarter saw a Monash revival as the Blues kicked four unanswered goals to trail by only seven points at the last change. Monash were not able to sustain their pressure in the final quarter when West Brunswick regained the ascendency by kicking five goals to one as Monash resistance faltered. The West Brunswick winning margin was thirty two points. Up forward Aaron Thompson was their star with six goals.
Preview of Grand Finals
Hawthorn and St Francis each have had a home victory against the other during the season. Hawthorn won by twenty one points in Round 2 after holding St Francis goalless for over a half. Only a fourth quarter revival saved St Francis from a big defeat. In Round 6 on a windy Beaconsfield day, St Francis triumphed by ten points. There is no doubt that St Francis have improved as the season has progressed. Player shortage plus the “tyranny of distance” have mitigated against team success in the past. Nothing succeeds like success and St Francis has shown marked improvement as the season has progressed.
Each side has multiple avenues to goal so each set of defenders must be aware of their opposition movements throughout the game. I favour Hawthorn simply because they are the defending and minor premiers, who will jealously guard their hard earned premiership favouritism. Last week’s game on the big ground may well have taken the edge off the St Francis fitness, so that as the game progresses, their running players could tire. I select Hawthorn to win but only after a titanic struggle.
The two best teams in the Section will meet for fifth time this season in today’s Grand Final. West Brunswick won in Round 8 by twenty five points and in Round 12 by fifteen points. On the other hand Old Geelong was victorious in Round 3 by thirty points and in the second semi final by twenty five points. Spectators can expect a dour struggle as the game progresses. I favour Old Geelong for two reasons; they rested last Sunday while West Brunswick played Monash Blues. In addition Old Geelong players are more accustomed to playing on a big ground (Como Park) whereas West Brunswick are used to the more confined spaces of the Ransford Oval.