WOW. What a return to representative footy we were treated to on Saturday afternoon at Elsternwick Park.
A drawn game, with a win for the Big V in extra time.
The Big V side, selected by coach Greg Hutchison put on one of the best displays of Amateur football against the Perth Football League the game has ever seen.
At the opening bounce, recent WA captain Ben Harding (now Old Melburnians) had the unique situation of reacquainting himself with former teammates. Harding, and the Vics were stung early on after Kyle Hammersley put the Sandgropers on the board within 45 seconds.
A Victorian forward line shared by Old Scotch and Old Xaverians worked in tandem along with Christian Carnovale (Hampton Rovers) to steady the very early momentum from WA and arrest back the tide. The work of Josh Steadman (Uni Blacks) and Harry Thompson (Old Trinity) in the ruck to get it into the hands of Harding, Luke Winter (St Kevin’s), and Marcus Stavrou (Old Xaverians).
Going into the first change with a 21 point lead, Greg Hutchison kept his troops in the huddle for a significant period of time imploring more of the same for the second term.
More of the same is what the Big V produced, another goal to Carnovale, Brodie Easton and Charlie MacIsaac saw the margin blow out to 38 points nearing half-time.
A goal to the travellers right on the cusp of half-time gave them a sniff, and that’s all they needed. That little piece of gold is all Perth FL coach Craig White needed to draw upon during the main change. In the premiership quarter, the game flipped completely on its head. Josh Branchi in the ruck through the first half, rotating with Blake Borrett almost decided he would go one-out, and left Borrett in the forward 50 arc.
The twin-towers of Perth became focal points, Kyle Halligan and Ryan Vermeersch. Trey Kennedy put his name on the scoresheet. The chances for the Big V were whittled down.
Nathan Blee was put onto Charlie MacIsaac, David Roche’s run off half back was a feature, Thomas Edwards-Baldwin also lifted his intensity around the ball.
Everything in the premiership quarter came up black and gold. Going into the final change with momentum on their side, Perth FL trailed by just six points.
A 32 minute final quarter followed, WA through Matt Young kicked the first goal of the final quarter, followed up immediately by Kyle Halligan. For the first time since the opening minute of the game, Perth were in front.
Against the home-state, Ben Harding had the answer for the Big V to put them back in front. As the time elapsed to 10 minutes, again WA were able to string two goals in a row together. Borrett from 45m out and Matt Young again.
11 points down, on tired legs, after leading by 38 points during the second quarter it became a flurry of Cardinals to bring the Vics back to life. Ryan Valentine kicked back to back goals to give the Big V back the lead. Henry Brown followed up to make it three in a row and the Vics went into time on with a 7 point lead.
Kyle Halligan showed why he has kicked 42 goals from 13 games this year, when he slammed his third goal home the margin was back to one point. When Trey Kennedy kicked his third goal of the day at the 25-minute mark, the Perth faithful were sent into raptures with a five point lead.
We’ve waited a long-time for a shootout like this, Kyle Halligan could well have buried the Vics at the 26-minute mark. A behind left the door open for Victoria, and it took all of Henry Brown’s nerves of steel to kick the goal for the Vics that levelled the scores.
Not satisfied to play out the clock and restart for extra time, bodies crashed in, players willed themselves to every ball. Josh Branchi takes a towering mark at centre half back, Ryan Valentine concedes a 50m penalty. From centre half back to centre half forward, as the siren sounded.
With scores level, to win the game for Perth, the Branchi kick fell short. 16.8.104 apiece. You can only dream about these days. Andrew Dawe, the CEO of Perth Football League, the only person in the stadium who picked a draw in the pre-game, now had to settle for extra time.
Josh Freezer won the extra time coin-toss and stayed with the Glenhuntly Road end of Elsternwick Park. Kyle Halligan opened the scoring to give Perth the lead, Jack Hewitt (Old Xaverians) produced a goal from a forward 50 stoppage to level scores again as the first period of extra time ended.
The final period of five minutes was a dream start for Victoria, Charlie MacIsaac received a free kick on the 45m arc and went whack. James Tarrant a minute later put the game beyond doubt, and then MacIsaac, to add the icing on a very sweet cake for the Vics put the final margin out to 19 points.
Every player on the ground absolutely exhausted. After four quarters, and two periods of extra time the Greg Hutchison’s men proved triumphant. The Big V claims victory for the first time since 2018.
In the forward line, the day belonged to Charlie MacIsaac (Old Xaverians) who finished with six goals in a best on ground display. Luke Winter (St Kevin’s) had 30 disposals through the midfield, Ben Harding sporting a black eye was on the right side of the ledger against his old mates.
VAFA 5.3, 9.3, 11.6, 16.8 (104) | Extra time: 17.9, 20.10 (130)
PERTH FL 2.0, 4.3, 10.6, 16.8 (104) | Extra time: 17.9, 17.9 (111)
Goals: C. MacIsaac 6, R. Valentine 3, H. Brown 3, L. Winter 2, C. Carnovale 2, B. Harding, B. Easton, J. Tarrant