Brin Duggan – @BrinDuggan
Like an awkward Saturday night, the regular season has come to an abrupt end. While the dust settles on a tense final round, we can look back on the weekend that drew the curtain on the home and away season.
In the only dead rubber of Round 18, Therry hosted Whitefriars. Playing for Silly Sunday positive energies, the stakes weren’t so high. Therry came out powerfully and led by 44-points at half time. Gun forward, Corey Bannister was on fire and Whitefriars were facing another shellacking. The break did them wonders, though, and they came out fiercely in the third quarter, reducing the margin to seven. However, it was not enough. Therry contradicted the “premiership quarter” adage and kicked away to a 38-point victory. Lions leading goal-kicker, Corey Bannister, finished with six goals taking his 2017 tally to 33. Matthew Lyons was named the Lions’ best and continued his strong finish to the season. The Friars, who drop down next year, were spirited. In his only senior game for 2017, under 19 gun Callum Thorburn, impressed as his side’s best.
Every other game had something hinging on the result and the Oakleigh v Ivanhoe tussle was no exception. Fighting for fourth spot, the Krushers simply wanted it more. Increasing their lead at every change, the finalists ran out 61-point victors. A good month after the halfway point of the season saved the Hoes from relegation but they will be looking to improve in 2018. Their linchpins, Mitch Lovell and Reuben Blackmore-Moore, had magnificent seasons and deserved more success. They were named their sides two best players in their final game. Lovell kicked 38 goals for the year to finish as their leader in that category. For Oakleigh, a strong back half has them well-positioned to threaten in finals. On the back of Aaron Cloke, who kicked another eight goals in this one and finished the regular season with 69 goals, they will have their first round opponent worried. Another match winner is Tim Scott who contributed three of his own to be named his side’s best.
Another important fixture pitted two potential relegation bound teams against one another with the prize of a Division 1 spot up for grabs. And so, this match between St Johns and Brunswick NOBSPC was a hotly contested affair. An accurate first half had the NOBS up by 22 at the main break with one and a half feet in Division 1 in 2018. And, at three quarter time they were counting their chickens. However, the last quarter saw Jocs storm home to narrowly fall by four points. Resultantly, the NOBS stay up and the Jocs head back to Division 2. The victory came on the back of eight goals between Matt Shannon and Dom Sullivan who were their side’s best two. Matt Shannon finished the year on 36 goals, 3 shy of club leading goal-kicker, Chris Ford. Despite relegation, the Jocs have some positives to draw upon: Aaron Thornton kicked six majors, to finish on an impressive 55 for the year and Glenn Costas continued his amateur football dominance and is a sneaky chance for another league medal.
Meanwhile, the battle between Ormond and Preston had the likelihood of deciding the final four positions. Ormond were playing for second and Preston for fourth. Inaccuracy from Ormond belied the difference between the sides in the first half and gave Preston a sniff when there was not really one. A half time boot change by the Monders saw them draw level half way through the third quarter and kick out to an eight-point final break lead. From then on, it was one-way traffic as Ormond raced away to a 31-point victory and a home final. Henry Simon was named their best but an impressive artillery will cause some damage in September. Despite missing finals, Preston finish the season with eleven wins, an impressive haul after coming up from Division 2. Liam Sutton finished the season on a high as he was named BOG and Oliver Lang snared three goals.
The final game, a fitting match up of the two best sides from the 2017 regular season, had SMS hosting PEGS. SMS could not relinquish top spot but PEGS were playing for second, and both were after bragging rights. The first quarter was ominous for the Saints as PEGS jetted out to a 14-point lead. SMS cut it to 10 at half time but were probably lucky to be that close with both Trent Skurrie and Adrian Romanyk causing the defence some headaches. After the main break, the Saints clawed their way even closer and closed the gap to just two. With the match on a knife’s edge, PEGS took their chance and scrapped their way to a 7-point win. Skurrie and Romanyk joined for 10 goals and will worry even the best defences in the finals with a combined 93 goals on the season. SMS finished minor premiers but will have their doubts after falling to PEGS in both games this year. Dan Ryan booted a bag of five while Manny Dolan managed three. With that, Dolan edged out Aaron Cloke to take the Division 1 goal-kicking mantle with 72 majors for the year.
The first week of finals sees SMS facing Ormond at Sportscover Arena on Saturday for a spot in the Grand Final. Although they are the two top scoring teams, defence wins finals. Stopping Dolan and Ryan will be the aim for Ormond while silencing three of Ormond’s best five will get the job done for the Saints. With a bee’s whisker between these two, I am going with SMS. The elimination final pits an unlucky PEGS against Oakleigh on Sunday, at Sportscover Arena as well. The potent forward line of the Oaks may have met its match against the stingiest Division 1 defence, that battle will tell the tale. Another close stoush will ensue but I think PEGS will get over the line.