Division 1 Grand Final – Sunday 20th September
Dingley vs Mordialloc
Springvale Reserve, Newcomen Road, Springvale – 2:30pm
88.3 Southern FM Match of the Day Broadcast
Listen to Hammers, Johnny Tak and the team call the big game live on 88.3 Southern FM or via sfnllive.com.au.
Broadcast time 2:00pm to 5:30pm
Click HERE to download the Division 1 Grand Final Edition of the SFNL Record.
Division 1 - Grand Final Preview
With Good Will Hunter
Round 3 (Ben Kavanagh Reserve)
Mordialloc 11.7 (73) def Dingley 10.8 (68)
Round 12 (Souter Oval)
Dingley 7.14 (56) def by Mordialloc 8.9 (57)
After 10 months of solid training, 18 gruelling home and away rounds and three weeks of hard-fought finals we are now left with our two Division 1 Grand Finalists.
Dingley and Mordialloc will do battle at Springvale Reserve on Sunday for the ultimate prize and football immortality.
The all-powerful Dingoes return to the well hoping to erase the heartbreak of last year’s agonising Grand Final loss to East Brighton and claim its first SFNL Division 1 premiership.
Meanwhile the Bloods, in just its first season back in the top grade, will play in their third consecutive Grand Final after reaching back-to-back Division 2 deciders in 2013-14.
In the process they have become just the second team in the 24-year history of the Southern Football Netball League to reach a Division 1 Grand Final the year after winning a second division flag, and the first since the all-conquering Balwyn premiership sides of 1997-98.
It’s a Cinderella story that has captured the attention of all local football followers.
And given the recent history between these two teams, the stage is set for an absolute corker of a Grand Final.
These two teams have met twice already this year, with both matches going down to the wire.
Dingley went into both games as heavy favourites, but it was Mordialloc that emerged victorious on both occasions by a cumulative margin of just six points.
In their first meeting back in Round 3 Mordialloc booted three goals in the last six minutes to steal a five-point win, while in the Round 12 return bout Dingoes forward Calhan McQueen’s after-the-siren shot for goal fell agonisingly short, handing the Bloods victory by the narrowest of margins.
These two wins show that Mordialloc matches up well against their star-studded rivals, but Bloods coach Sam Antsey said that these victories don’t necessarily fill his side with confidence that they have the Dingoes’ measure.
“It does and it doesn’t (give us confidence against Dingley). We’ve been very lucky to beat them twice,” Anstey said.
“While you’re happy you have beaten them, you’re definitely not confident. They’ve been the best team all year, but we know we can at least match it with them. And if you’re in the game, anything can happen.”
And Dingley certainly have been the best side all year, dropping just three matches for the year – the eight-point loss to St Pauls in Round 15 was the other blemish – on their way to their second straight minor premiership.
But while they didn’t dominate the home and away rounds like they did in 2014, their recent finals form has been immeasurably better than in recent seasons.
Their hard-fought win a fortnight ago against their nemesis East Brighton in the Second Semi saw them win straight through the big dance. This is in stark contrast their poor performances in finals past, and in particular 12 months prior, which saw them succumb to the weight of expectation and suffer two humiliating defeats to the Vampires in three weeks.
So what’s changed? A couple of things, really, but one factor stands out above all others.
“It’s definitely mental,” Dingoes coach Shane Morwood said.
“The guys are physically stronger, and yeah we have a different crew and a few different players, but I think at the end of the day you’ve got to have that strong resolve mentally to actually get through things.”
The win over the Vampires a fortnight ago was perhaps the turning point. Trailing for most of the afternoon, the Dingoes lifted and found a way to win, which gave the playing group the belief that they can handle the immense pressure of a huge final.
And rather than “limp” into the Grand Finals like they did last year, they go into this game thinking that “this is the best form we’ve had in a finals series”.
Meanwhile Mordialloc are the feel-good story of the year. They qualified for the finals in fifth position after losing four of their last five home and away games, before pulling off three stunning upset wins against quality opponents in St Pauls, East Malvern and East Brighton to make the Granny.
And now they are riding a tidal wave of emotion into the biggest game of the year and have a genuine belief they can continue their winning run.
“Obviously (there’s) a lot of energy from the boys, but just really good vibes at the moment which is good, which hopefully we can sustain and take into this weekend,” Anstey said.
“East Brighton was the last team that we hadn’t beaten, so we’ve beaten every single team throughout the year at some stage. So I think in the back of our minds we always knew we were good enough if we could produce our best footy.”
Part of their form reversal in the last three weeks can be attributed to their ability to beat their opponents in the clearances. The trio of Beau Turner, Jake O’Donnell and skipper Todd Bastion are vital cogs in the Mordialloc engine room and have been instrumental in helping their side win the ball from stoppages every week.
Dingley, however, don’t have many extractors outside of Josh Boyle. But what they lack in grunt they make up in spades with polished outside run, and this is where they hurt teams. Jackson Peet, Luke Bartholomew and Dan Bolger can all turn a game with their explosiveness through the guts while Dan Farmer, who has only recently been tried in to the midfield, is one of the most damaging players in the competition.
The Dingoes also boast perhaps the most potent forward set up in the competition with the likes of McQueen (who is coming off a six-goal haul in the Semi), Dean Francis, Steve Gaertner and Marcus Freeman.
Up the other end, James Morris looms as the key to Mordialloc kicking a winning score. A proven big-game performer, Morris booted seven majors in the Bloods’ 2014 Grand Final win over Skye and he and his partner in crime, James Pennycuick, will no doubt cause headaches for Dingley’s defence.
But Mordi’s biggest chance of victory rests on the shoulders of Anstey himself. A supremely talented footballer with an outstanding footy nous, Anstey has an uncanny ability to impact every contest. He may not be a prolific ball-winner, but he never wastes a disposal and can always be relied upon to step up when his side needs him.
Despite the multitude of weapons in his arsenal, Morwood said he need every single player to full their role in order for them to win the game, rather than rely on one or two match-winners.
“We need 22 players playing their role and playing it well so I think if we do that then we are a massive chance to win the game,” he said.
“So if we are relying on one player to do a job then we are in trouble.”
Dingley will enter the Grand Final having played just one match in the last three weeks, which would give the players ample time to overcome any niggles and rest their tired and sore bodies.
In contrast, Mordialloc will no doubt be battle-weary after contesting three consecutive hard-fought finals in that same period – the last of which was played in very warm conditions. You’d think that would take its toll on them physically.
The Bloods will enter this Grand Final as underdogs, which will suit them perfectly. They’ve been underdogs for the entire finals series and they just keep finding ways to win. They seem to flourish when their backs are against the wall and will fancy their chances to win, no matter how far behind they get.
However, they will encounter a Dingley side that seems to have learnt from their previous disappointments and finally shaken off the mental demons that haunted them in last year’s finals series.
They may not have beaten the Bloods this year, but Grand Finals are a completely different ball game. The planets seem to be aligning for the Dingoes and they are hitting peak form at the best time. Season 2015 looks to finally be their year and I expect them to get over the line in what could well be one of the all-time great Grand Finals.
Dingley by eight points.
Both Grand Final captains Tony Lavars (Dingley) and Todd Bastion (Mordialloc) can't wait to get their hands on the cup on Sunday.
Click here to read Jason Barbin's preview of Saturday's Division 2 Grand Final between Oakleigh District and Murrumbeena.