By Jason Barbin
Port Melbourne Colts V Caulfield
Saturday 24 September, 2:30pm
Jack Barker Oval
This is it, the one we’ve all been waiting for, that one day in September.
To be a little less cliché, Saturday marks the Southern Football Netball League Division 2 Grand Final and for one team, history will be made.
The competition’s newcomers Port Melbourne will have a chance to not only claim its first premiership since 2006 when it was a part of the Western Region Football League, but also cap off what has been an incredibly dominant undefeated season – its first in the SFNL.
For the Bears, however this is a chance to overcome the odds. They will certainly go into the match as underdogs, and create a little history of their own in only their second Grand Final appearance with their first coming in 1994 – the club’s first and only senior premiership.
But who will take out the big dance and secure a spot in Division 1 for next season? Let’s take a look at some of the key players from both sides who will have an influence on the final result.
Last time they met:
Round 6 – JL Murphy Reserve
Port Melbourne Colts 12.10 (82) def Caulfield 7.10 (52)
Round 17 – Koornang Park
Caulfield 9.8 (62) def by Port Melbourne 19.3 (117)
Second Semi Final – Jack Barker Oval
Port Melbourne 16.12 (108) def Caulfield 7.6 (48).
PORT MELBOURNE COLTS
The diminutive livewire has quietly gone about and had a pretty stellar season as the number two goal kicker in the competition, having kicked 55 goals through 19 games.
Clarke has formed a dangerous combination with fellow key forward Jason Butty and both are certified match-winners.
Caulfield has a hell of a job covering both players and Port Melbourne only need one player to have a day out to gain the upper hand.
Justin Taylor and Lewis Mildenhall
Port Melbourne has been known for clean and efficient ball movement into the forward 50 and this pair has been at the forefront of their domination in the middle of the ground.
Both players have been named in the side’s best players a team-high 11 times this season and both are among the best players in the competition.
Like most high intensity matches, the game is won in the trenches and Port Melbourne boast two of the best when the going gets tough.
Don’t be surprised if one of these players is wearing a second medal around their necks come the end of the game.
The star recruit from St Pauls has been the Bears’ best player this season and is their big target inside 50, having booted 44 goals for the season.
Although his form has been down slightly, Gilbert is one of the best and is a big game player, having already proven his worth with the Dogs during their run to the 2013 flag.
Whether he plays up forward, a defensive role or even rotating through the midfield, Gilbert is Caulfield’s barometer and if he is at his absolute best, the Bears are a strong chance.
The crafty half back/midfielder takes pride in his disposal and is a playmaker for the Bears no matter where he lines up on the field.
When Caulfield is moving the ball at its best, it’s usually because Wood has been on the end of it and he has been a damaging player throughout the season.
The Bears will look to counter attack with plenty of drive coming from the half back line and Wood will likely be the one to kick start his side into action.
Another midfielder who has enjoyed a sensational season for the Bears, Mick Harrington knows how to get the football.
A player who thrives in contested situations, Harrington has also been able to sneak forward on occasions and has booted 11 goals this season.
Caulfield has a strong midfield core and Harrington is right in the thick of it and it the Bears are going to win the battle in the middle, Harrington will be looked upon as the go-to man to turn up the heat.
Although Port Melbourne has comfortably been the best side in the competition, it doesn’t mean it is unbeatable.
As every coach in Australia will tell you (and I’m quite comfortable saying this), finals football is a step up and anything can happen on Grand Final day.
At their best, the Bears are a team that can match it with the Colts and there is absolutely no reason why Saturday’s clash should be any different.
Both teams possess high quality midfields and dangerous targets inside 50 and the match will provide a spectacle for all to behold.
But, as always, the match will come down to who simply wants it more, who is willing to fight tooth and nail for the hard ball, who will put their body on the line to lay a tackle, effect a spoil or provide a shepherd that could set up the match winning goal.
On Saturday, we will find out and I for one can’t wait.
For my final prediction of the year: Port Melbourne by 19 points.
[caption id="attachment_13083" align="aligncenter" width="600"]
Colts co-captain Blake Twomey and Caulfield co-captain Adam Ballard get their hands on the cup.[/caption]
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Young Colts livewire Mitch Clarke will pose a threat up forward.[/caption]
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Justin Taylor will also prove hard to contain in the Port Melbourne engine room.[/caption]
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Whether in attack or defence, Bears big man Nick Gilbert is sure to be a danger.[/caption]
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2016 B&F winner Tom Heagney is one of the vital cogs in the Caulfield midfield.[/caption]