By Andrew Paloczi
Round 14 – Doveton Eagles 7.3 (45) def by Endeavour Hills 10.17 (77)
Round 3 – Endeavour Hills 8.4 (52) def by Doveton Eagles 17.13 (115)
Grand final combatants Endeavour Hills and Doveton each defeated the other once during the home and away season.
Both won at the other’s home ground. Now they meet on neutral turf in Cheltenham for the biggest prize on offer.
Endeavour Hills finished third on the ladder, a game ahead of Doveton.
That enabled the Falcons to get their talons on a double chance, whilst consigning the Eagles to a more perilous path.
The Rob Dipper coached Falcons showed no sign of nerves despite being the first Endeavour Hills senior squad to make finals.
Wins against Ashwood and Hallam propelled Endeavour Hills into the big game, allowing it the luxury of a rest in Preliminary Final week.
That break may prove decisive, but so may the big bodies and finals experience of Doveton.
Eagles’ coach Simon Caldwell is happy to play the underdog, recently suggesting that his side’s lower ladder position affords it that status.
“There’s no pressure on us. We’re sort of coming from the backend,” Caldwell indicated prior to his team’s Preliminary Final victory.
The same philosophy undoubtedly applies this week coming up against the higher-placed and well-rested Falcons.
But Doveton’s performance in its three finals suggests the Eagles will be a serious threat.
They have won every match in convincing fashion.
Both sides have a spread of talent that means they are not overly reliant on a couple of players.
The midfield battle will be absorbing.
Dipper recently outlined his thoughts on Endeavour Hills’ midfield when chatting with The 5th Quarter radio crew.
“Batto’s (Daniel Batson) all class, and then you’ve got the 18-year-old kid Nick Gay running round like a veteran. He very rarely gets beaten in a contest and he just gives us so much drive out of that midfield with Byron Hoe and Jayson Bruce and Priddis (Jake Van Hoesel),” Dipper said.
“They’re a good mix in there and they work well together and I just let them go and do what they want to do. And they get the job done.”
This week they will have to contend with the unrelated but similarly named Wilsons, Corrie and Cory, along with the in form and robust Michael Callinan.
All have played a major role in ensuring Doveton has progressed this deep into the finals.
The Eagles have a number of others who can do damage in the midfield and also kick goals.
Adam Read has so far booted seven majors during the finals and has been listed in the Eagles’ best in a couple of those matches. He is equally at home creating opportunities for teammates as he is finishing the good work of others.
Although an impressive key position player he covers plenty of ground and is comfortable in the midfield.
Enayte Samadi also offers versatility and has booted 42 goals in 19 matches this season for the Eagles, including four during the finals. In the Preliminary Final victory over Hallam, Samadi was goalless, but his contribution to the team saw him listed in the Eagles’ best players.
Both Endeavour Hills and Doveton have options in the ruck as they strive to give their midfielders first use of the footy.
Nathan Crutchley is an imposing figure for the Falcons and has the fitness to ruck for a large portion of the game.
Joel Marie can handle ruck duties when Crutchley needs a rest and is also capable of playing at centre half forward.
Emilio Williams and Cam Carmody are both likely to pitch in with ruck duties for Doveton.
Both can also have an impact up forward.
Carmody was unable to play in the Elimination Final due to a wedding, but has slotted back into the side in the Eagles’ other couple of finals. He featured in the goal scorers and best players against Ashwood and Hallam.
Neither of the Grand Finalists is overly dependent on one forward to kick a winning score.
That is despite Endeavour Hills’ spearhead Daniel Morrison having booted 51 goals for the season from his 20 games and Doveton’s Russell Robertson producing 49 majors from just 9 matches.
Robertson would be a major selection risk for the Grand Final, having sat out the Preliminary Final with what appeared to be a rib injury. He would attract a great deal of physical pressure should he take the field.
However, the Eagles have three other players with over 30 goals for the season, these being Samadi, Read and Cory Wilson.
They have a host of others capable of bobbing up and kicking majors.
In both the Elimination Final and Preliminary Final, Doveton had eight goal kickers, and it had six all with multiple majors in the Semi Final.
Endeavour Hills had seven goal scorers in both the Qualifying and Semi Finals.
Morrison has contributed just one of the Falcons’ 18 finals goals.
Interestingly, Endeavour Hills has finished with identical scores of 9.9 (63) in each of its finals.
There is a question mark as to whether or not the Falcons will need to find a few more goals to beat Doveton.
The Eagles have managed 11 goals in each of two finals and 14 in the other.
However, Endeavour Hills has a miserly, but creative backline led by the dashing Shaun Richards and Daniel Strom.
Both can quickly turn a defensive situation into an attacking one.
Ben Moriarty offers further backline solidity for the Falcons.
As with every other part of the ground, Doveton also has abundant talent in defence.
Stuart Williams can play as a key defender, whilst also offering the Eagles an extra ruck option.
Kaine Bundy is a specialist backman, rarely mentioned on the Eagles’ best players list, but always a valuable contributor.
Dale Jose, a key backman, has had a strong season, justifying Doveton’s decision to recruit him from Dandenong. He has been particularly impressive in the finals series, being named as the Eagles’ second best player in all three of their matches.
Jose is not one to sneak forward too often, having last kicked an SFNL goal during the 2013 season when playing for the Redlegs.
Dylan Chadwick and Matt Fristad are other reliable components of Doveton’s defence.
Whatever the conditions on game day, expect a close and entertaining Grand Final to complete what has been a memorable finals series.
With the week’s rest and being the fitter and quicker side, Endeavour Hills may have a slight edge. But, you can’t underrate the finals experience of a number of Doveton’s players.
The Falcons need to maintain the attacking style of footy that has brought them success so far in the finals and not allow the Eagles to slow the game down and outmuscle them.
This scribe is tipping Endeavour Hills to hold the premiership cup aloft, but any underdog status Doveton might claim is negligible.