The two heavyweights of Division 3 met in the first round of finals and this promised to be potentially the highest quality game of the season. After pipping Vultures of the minor premiership, Power House hosted the Vultures at Casey Fields and held an early 14-point advantage at the first change of ends. Patrick Healey was dangerous in front of goal snagging four for the day while Dominic Mitchell and Greg Bell were instrumental through the midfield. Despite losing very winnable games in the last few rounds of the home and away season, UHS remained a very potent side and wrestled the ascendancy back in their favour in the second quarter to lead by 21 points at the main break. Momentum in the game ebbed and flowed and the House managed to reduce the deficit to 13 points at three quarter time, however, the good work of UHS-VU players Douglas Payton, who was judged best on ground, and Brandon Jackson (five goals) quashed any hope of a comeback victory from Power House. The Vultures eventually ran out the game as 44-point victors, securing their place in Division 2 next year. UHS now have a week off before they play the winner of Power House and Westbourne Grammarians.
Late season chargers, Swinburne University, booked their place in the finals a few weeks ago but Westbourne, who looked as if they may miss out on a finals spot, had to defeat ladder-leaders UHS in the final round to secure a spot. The Warriors prevailed and booked themselves a finals berth, but would their gruelling efforts in Round 18 influence their performance in finals?
The loser of the game faced the prospect of ending their season early and it was apparent how much each of the two sides wanted the win in the opening quarter. True to the expectation of finals footy, both teams were ferocious at the ball and pressure one the ball carrier was immense. From start to finish of the opening quarter, neither side could break the shackles and kick clear. Swinburne, however, held a slim advantage at the first change. In the second term, play started to open up and the Razorbacks extended their lead to 14 at the main break. The quality of Westbourne Grammarians wrestled the ascendency back in their favour in the third, booting four goals to lead by five points going into the final quarter. Michael Culliver was was instrumental in turning the game in Westbourne’s favour, being named best on ground while Nick Schiano exemplified his spot in the Division 3 team of the year with three majors as the Grammarians managed to hang on to win by six points. For the Razorbacks, as ever, Ben Higgins was hard to contain, snagging three goals; Richard Lugg matched Higgins with three of his own while Kane Fitzpatrick was judged best for his side. Despite their best efforts, Swinburne’s season comes to an end, though they’ll look to build on their strong end-of-season form next year and climb their way up to Division 2. The Warriors now go through to play Power House for a place in the grand final against UHS-VU.
This should prove to be a tight game, with Power House holding a slight advantage over the Warriors given they have toppled them twice throughout the regular season, though neither win was convincing. Across the two games, only 13 points separated the two teams, Power House winning by 10 points in Round 1 and three points in Round 17. This could come down to who has the ability to sustain four quarters of finals football, and based on last week’s results, it was Westbourne who finished strong as Power House fell away. If the House are to bounce back, they’ll need to shut down Nicholas Schiano and Ben Johnson who have been damaging on the scoreboard all year. For Westbourne, they’ll need to shut down potent forward Nick Nagel, just as UHS did last week, if they’re going to be any chance. Quelling the influence of Nagel will come down to the midfield battle where the Warriors will need to stifle his supply up forward. This should prove to be a nail-biter with nothing separating the two teams on paper.