By Brenton Mann – @BrentyMann
Old Paradians snapped a 29-year premiership drought in glorious style on the back of their stunning 15-point win over Ivanhoe at Highgate Reserve. While the result was a surprise to a few, including myself, the boys from Garvey Oval proved the doubters wrong by grinding out a memorable win. Parade limped into the finals with a round 18 win over South Melbourne, and looked set to merely make up the numbers. To their credit, the Raiders took all before them in the post-season, taking the three biggest scalps in Division 2 on their way to a drought-breaking premiership win. After a swift finals exit in 2014, Dave Boundy clearly pin-pointed the tightening of defensive structures and contested ball as main areas of improvement, and his chargers delivered on the biggest stage. Parade was beaten comfortably by Ivanhoe in the pair’s previous two meetings this year, and with Ivanhoe fresh after a week-off, the result seemed skewed in the Hoes favour. Both sides play contrasting styles and it’s fair to say, Highgate Reserve can be a tricky place to play, especially for the first time. Still days at Highgate are as rare as hen’s teeth and inaccuracy in front of goal generally greets the unfamiliar. This was well and truly the case for the boys from Ivanhoe. Luckily for the Raiders, this was their third encounter at the venue in two-years, and their local knowledge shone through. For Paul Harris and his side, they were endeavouring to hold the illustrious cup aloft for the first time since 1969 when John Gorton was prime minister and man landed on the moon. After Ivanhoe’s shock loss, here’s hoping the powerbrokers at Ivanhoe don’t oust Paul Harris as the Liberal Party did to Tony Abbott earlier this week. As is said across all grades of amateur football, the semi-final or prelim win is for the club and the grand final is for the players. Their promotion into Division 1 is great reward for a club keen to climb the heights of the VAFA ranks and recapture the glory of days gone by.
Expectation is a fascinating pressure heading into a grand final. It usually hovers over one side like a cloud and infects the minds of some, whilst others are completely free of that weight. Last Saturday, the weight of expectation of capturing ultimate glory clearly asphyxiated Ivanhoe who were not given the chances they expected to come. The Raiders on the other hand went in with the “us against the world” mentality as they bottled the barbs of doubt that were thrown at them all year, fuelling their steely resolve. The Raiders went into the game after accounting for Northern Blues in a cut-throat semi-final and steam-rolled St John’s in a come-from-behind prelim final win a week previous. Ivanhoe on the other hand had the luxury of “putting their feet-up” over prelim final week and no doubt watched Parade’s stunning performance against St John’s with intrigue. The Raiders came from five goals down to win by four in the end, in arguably their best performance of the year. As Ivanhoe were clearly the best side all year, and had been so dominant, the Raiders were only given a glimmer of hope by most. That faint glimmer was if the Raiders could somehow turn the game into a dogfight, and they did.
Inaccuracy can become an infectious disease come finals time, and in grand finals it can spread like wildfire. Bad kicking for goal plagued the Hoes early, as the Raiders, as they have done all finals series, took their chances when they presented themselves and remained within striking distance. The fact Parade slotted three goals in the second term was not a shock, the fact it held Ivanhoe goalless certainly was. The Raiders reversed an eight-point deficit into a seven-point lead and went into the main change brimming with confidence. Inaccuracy again welcomed Ivanhoe in the third, as it simply struggled with the blustery conditions at Highgate and as a result, failed to arrest back the lead heading into the last. The final term was simply a test of attrition, and in keeping with the theme, was a dour affair. Only three goals were scored as pure ecstasy was felt by the boys from Garvey Oval as the final siren bellowed across Highgate Reserve. Ivanhoe will no doubt rue its second-quarter aberration, as this was another premiership that slipped through their grasps. For Dave Boundy and his crew, this was a victory to savour, born out of hard-work and desire and a steely resolve.