East Malvern 7.6 (48) def Mordialloc 6.9 (45)
A Ryan Mullett masterclass has propelled East Malvern to their first Division 1 Grand Final berth with a thrilling three-point Preliminary Final victory on Saturday.
Wet and windy conditions at Springvale Reserve meant the match was a tough, congested and physical encounter throughout, but the experienced Mullett’s class, creativity and cleanliness through the middle was decisive factor in the result.
It was far from pretty football, with no shortages of stoppages, but it was no less a compelling contest between two standout sides.
East Malvern made the most of the breeze early, slotting the only two goals of the opening stanza to distance themselves from the Bloods at quarter time.
Mordialloc then hit back in the second, with a goal just before the half time siren to winger Nathan Evans giving them a slender lead at the major break.
However, the Bloods lost hard-nosed skipper Todd Bastion to a calf injury midway through the term, which robbed them of an elite hard ball-winner for the second half, a body blow in such a tight contest.
The Panthers capitalised in the premiership quarter, goaling 30 seconds upon the resumption to regain the lead, before stretching their advantage to 11 points at the final change.
With their season hanging in the balance, Mordialloc fought with gusto in the tense final term, but the Panthers were good enough in the dying stages to see off their challenge and hold on for victory.
If there just a couple more minutes, we could very well have seen a different result, but in the end, the better side won the game.
The Panthers were more composed and cleaner with ball in hand than their opponents, led by the irrepressible Mullett, who was best on ground by the length of Flemington straight. The classy ball-winner made light of the difficult conditions and was effortlessly tidy with his ball handling and disposal where others around him weren’t.
Lucas Hall was also outstanding in defence for the winners, keeping dangerous Mordialloc forward James Morris quiet, while Nic Barry was a positive influence off half back.
Jack Waterston and Mark Tyrell were also solid contributors, with Josh McCleary and Alex Hywood the side’s multiple goalkickers with two each.
The ruck battle was also an intriguing one, with superstar Panther Chris Carey up against lion-hearted Bloodhound Buddy Spohn. While Carey probably shaded Spohn on points in a split decision, both ruckmen were among their club’s most influential players on the day.
For Mordialloc, Evans was one of the big stand outs with a game-high three majors, with Tom Curry and Lachie Bull also finding plenty of the footy.
Ben Humphrey and Matt Moore also impressed, clucking several marks in the sloppy conditions, while Chris Brooking did a reasonable job on the ever-dangerous Steve Brewer.
So while Mordialloc’s turbulent season ends in heartbreak, they can nevertheless be proud of their efforts in 2018.
For East Malvern, a date with St Pauls on the SFNL’s grandest stage now awaits next Saturday afternoon.