By Rich Hummerston – @Richie_Humm
In the dying minutes of the 2008 AFL Grand Final, Rex Hunt coined the phrase “You can win 40 of 44 games, but it means Jack Shizenhausen if you can’t win the final game in September.” He was of course, talking about Geelong’s spectacular choke at the hands of Hawthorn. After being the most dominant side of the modern era, and the clear favourite to win the 2008 premiership, they faltered at the final hurdle, their name etched in the history of the AFL as mere runners up.
Despite boasting an incredible record of 21 wins and one loss and at the time being one of the shortest favourites to salute on the final Saturday in September, their efforts amounted to nothing and let’s face it, no one really cares about who came second.
This past weekend, in arguably the most bizarre weekend of finals football since the inception of the VAFA, we had not one, but two remarkable upsets involving both the competition favourites, one of which holds devastating consequences for the club in question.
The first vs sixth clash is traditionally a mere formality. The five rungs on the ladder that separate the two sides represents an enormous difference, in this instance, it was seven wins and an 80-point hiding the last time the sides met. However, if the game was supposed to be just a formality, no one told North Brunswick, the Bulls game firing out of the gates, piling on 9 of the first 11 goals of the match, sinking the minor premiers in the process.
And while Canterbury were always going to bite back, North Brunswick had the composure, and the stock, to ensure their early hard work would not go to waste. Ben Gallagher was huge again (figurative and literally) kicking goals when they mattered and Peter Butler was up this his usual lofty standards. For Canterbury it was Dylan Wissell on return from a brief hiatus, Lachie Chapman and Scott Fitzgerald who impressed.
The news of the Cobras loss would send shockwaves through the Division Four community, not only did it instantly make every other game an elimination final, but it also put Old Westbourne firmly in the firing line to squander a 16-2 H&A season if they were to go down to the inform Parkside squad.
Both Point Cook and Box Hill will be forgiven for thinking they had pretty much a free whack in the first week of finals. Canterbury couldn’t lose to North Brunswick, and Westbourne were going to make incredibly light work of Parkside. The winner of the clash would go on to play Westbourne, the loser Canterbury.
So you can imagine the panic at Garvey Oval when word started to filter through that Canterbury were down by 50 points. Their free ride to the second week of the finals cruelly stripped from them, now, only the winner would progress.
After a close battle in round 17, this game promised to deliver the goods, and we weren’t disappointed. The two sides exchanged blows, until the unassuming Box Hill, like they have on so many occasions before, got their nose in front and took the chocolates. Adrian Piccioli was devastating for Box Hill and Micky Tilley chimed in when it mattered.
Like the Box Hill and Point Cook clash, Westbourne had the weight of the world loaded on their oft-tattooed shoulders on news of Canterbury selfishly taking the honour of the highest placed loser. The burden took its toll, as the usually well drilled, skilled and ruthless Westbourne failed to turn up.
When Westbourne all but negated Parkside’s lead at the final change, every man and his dog thought it would be curtains for the VAFA’s newly reinstated love child. They had been gallant all day, but surely they couldn’t continue to stay with the dominant Westbourne for any longer. But Westbourne never came, Parkside pulling away in the final quarter, condemning Old Westbourne to another season in Division Four and a headache that will linger for many moons to come.
After 18 rounds and one spectacular week of finals, four sides remain, two of which couldn’t have possibly dreamt of promotion at any stage this year.
But like Rex Hunt said in 2008, if you can’t win the games that matter, it all means ‘Jack Shizenhausen’.
The Division Four faithful head North this week for the preliminary final matchups. On Saturday it’s to the incredible facilities at Highgate Reserve in Craigieburn for the Parkside vs North Brunswick clash, while on Sunday it’s out to Garvey Oval in Bundoora.
On Saturday I’m tipping Parkside to get the job done in a close one. The tag team of McLaren and Potter will be too much for the Bulls to overcome. In the Sunday game, I’m tipping Canterbury to bring an end to an incredible Box Hill North season. While the minor premiers have stumbled in the past fortnight, they are too strong to stay down for any longer.
Parkside v North Brunswick
Box Hill North v Canterbury