FINALS WEEK 1 REVIEW
East Malvern 7.12 (54) def Mordialloc 3.4 (22)
The Panthers are now just one win away from the 2018 Division 1 Grand Final following their gritty 32-point victory over Mordialloc in Saturday’s Qualifying Final.
Following several weeks of disappointing sub-par performances, the Bloods were keen to make a statement and reassert itself as a genuine premiership threat.
And its early endeavours would have heartened the red and white faithful, as Mordialloc came to play and took the early ascendancy through the midfield. As a result, they slotted the only two goals of the opening stanza and skipped out to a 14-point lead at the first change.
But the momentum shifted upon the resumption, with the powerful Panthers’ midfield brigade dictating the terms around the contest. Their ability to win the ball from the stoppages and move it forward with conviction resulted in three second-term snags to the Bloods’ one, and a slender advantage at the major interval.
With the game delicately poised, a hard-fought tussle was expected for the second half, however, it turned out to be simply one-way traffic as the Panthers turned the screws.
Disappointingly, Mordialloc failed to fire a shot in response as their goal-scoring struggles were again laid bare. They registered just one solitary behind in a dismal second half as East Malvern slotted 4.7 to kick themselves comfortably clear.
Again, it was several familiar faces leading the way for East Malvern. Ruckman Chris Carey led from the front with another sublime performance both in the air and around the ground, while Luke Duffy was prolific at the coalface, racking up a big number of possessions through the midfield.
Up forward, Alex Hywood finished with three majors, while Ryan Mullett added two of his own.
Co-captain Jack Hammond, classy veteran Steve Brewer, and youngster Riley Flanigan were all instrumental, but contributors were plentiful for the Panthers, who will now face St Pauls next Saturday for a shot at the big dance.
Luke Barnhoorn was named Mordialloc’s best, ahead of Todd Bastion, Lachlan Bull, Chris Brooking.
St Kilda City 4.9 (33) def by Dingley 9.9 (63)
The Saints have been the biggest improvers of 2018, but their impressive season has come to an end, with their run halted by the might of Dingley in the Elimination Final on Sunday.
Their five-goal victory now sets up a blockbuster Grand Final rematch with last year’s runners-up Mordialloc next Sunday.
This match-up was tipped to be a tight affair, and early indications lived up to expectation. With the high stakes came high pressure, as both sides took a while to adjust to the heat of the contest in the opening quarter.
Both sides looked threatening when they had the ball on the outside, but the constant pressure around the ball carrier resulted in the occasional lack of polish, particularly with the last kick inside 50. As such, scores were at a premium, with Dingley poking their noses in front at the first change.
The Dingoes took control of the contest in the second term and kicked away to a 23-point advantage at the half, but it could have been a greater margin had their converted a few more of their chances in front of goal.
Pleasingly, however, their backline stood up exceptionally well and had held the Saints to just three scoring shots in the first half of football.
As expected, the Saints lifted in the premiership quarter but despite the majority of the play being confirmed to their offensive half of the ground, they couldn’t capitalise on the scoreboard, much to the chagrin of coach Richard Houston.
A poor return of 1.7 was not enough to bridge the gap, and they left themselves with it all to do in the final stanza.
In the end, the experienced Dingoes regained control through the midfield in the last quarter and cruised to victory.
Dan Farmer continued his excellent form in front of the sticks, finishing with four majors, and Robbie Rusan also looked electric with ball in hand.
But it was in the back half in which the Dingoes truly had the Saints’ measure. Kristin Feehan was simply tremendous at the contest all day, further staking his claim for the mantle as the most improved player in the competition, while Trav La Rocca and Andrew Frost were influential on the rebound.
For the Saints, big Ray Lengyel was a pillar of strength, Aaron Green had a crack for four quarters and Aaron Purvis fought hard to get his side back in the game, but ultimately too much was left for too few.
Despite the disappointing result, St Kilda City can never the less be proud of the giant strides forward it took in season 2018.