Division 2: Raiders shock Blues & have JOCs pegged in final

Posted on - Latest News, Featured, Division 2 Men's, Finals

By Brenton Mann – @BrentyMann

Old Paradians staged a stunning last quarter comeback to upstage the more fancied Northern Blues by 20-points at Highgate Reserve. The Raiders stormed to victory with a five-goals-to-nil final term that launched them into this week’s preliminary final. The win elevates the Raiders’ premiership chances as the club is now just one win away from Div 1 promotion and two away from ultimate glory. The Blues went into the clash with an unblemished VAFA finals record and chasing the elusive premiership three-peat. Parade on the other hand was looking to bury the demons of last year’s swift finals exit and was by no means in top-form. The Raiders fell to the Blues at Garvey Oval last time they met and limped into the finals at the death-knock. The OPs have made definite in-roads this year and no longer only rely on the likes of Boundy, Kandilakis and Bellizia to secure victory. The Raiders play a highly contested game style and look to control the pace of the game with a high possession rate. Not an overly quick side, it relies on controlling the ball by foot to not only minimise turnovers but also deny its opposition the ball. This worked to a treat in last week’s semi-final win over Northern. The Blues boast a bevy of young attacking midfielders, led by Damon Marcon and play a ballistic brand of football. Unfortunately for the Blues, they struggled to implement this on the wide expanses of Highgate Reserve. The Raiders turned the encounter into a low-scoring dour affair and then ran over the top of Northern in the last. Parade will enter this week’s prelim final against St John’s brimming with confidence and the knowledge that it beat the JOCs last time they met.

Ivanhoe banked first spot in the 2015 grand final and with its promotion into Div 1 in 2016 with a clinical 28-point win over St John’s at the Snakepit. The Hoes have been far and above the best side all year and showed that last Sunday. Both sides share a fierce professional and competitive rivalry that was on show in the first semi-final. Ivanhoe now boasts a 3–0 record over St John’s this season and seems to have their measure. The Hoes have made no bones about the fact that they’ve been preparing for St John’s for some time, and it showed. The JOCs made the early running but unfortunately couldn’t make it count on the scoreboard. Ivanhoe, as it had done in the pair’s previous two encounters took their opportunities when they presented themselves and made the JOCs pay. A five-goals-to-one second term handed Ivanhoe a handy 25-point buffer at the main change, as the JOCs were found wanting. St John’s made definite in-roads in their semi-final loss and their five-goal third term was testament to that, but unfortunately, they leaked goals down back and still had work to do. The JOCs got within a goal of Ivanhoe but it was simply a bridge too far. Ivanhoe’s system and structure won out, and hold them in great stead to achieve premiership glory. St John’s will be heartened by its effort but again the coaching staff will no doubt be lamenting missed opportunities which I’m sure will be ironed out during the week in anticipation for a cracking clash with Old Paradians.

This week’s prelim final between St John’s and Old Paradians is dripping with intrigue, as the Raiders seem in top-form and the JOCs licking their wounds after last week’s loss. Both sides boast contrasting styles, with St John’s preferring a fast-paced, ballistic game, and the Raiders will be looking for a dogfight. In their most recent encounter, the JOCs struggled to combat the Raiders defensive structures and also failed to spread from congestion with system and purpose. The Raiders didn’t allow St Johns’ midfielders time and space and simply controlled the ball and capitalised on their inside-50s. The template is there for the Raiders; they now must simply replicate it. Victory for St John’s starts and finishes at the coalface. If their midfielders can win the ball in the clinches and exit the stoppages with speed then they’ll give their forwards enough one-on-one opportunities. Parade boast a trio of match-winners forward of centre, in Dave Boundy, James Kandilakis and Michael Bellizia with all three having differing strengths that make them difficult match-ups. As a defensive unit, St John’s back-line battled manfully against Ivanhoe last week and will be looking to their wingers and midfielders for support. If the JOCs’ midfielders and half-forwards can be manic with their pressure and create turnovers, that will allow their backline to intercept and create attacking chains of possession. A case can be made for both sides. It comes down to who gets their game up and going early and who can sustain their own whilst absorbing the opposition’s pressure.


St John’s vs Old Paradians