Teams have put themselves through nearly 12 months of hard work, just to have a shot at glory. For some, all that hard work will have paid off come the end of the weekend…..
DIVISION 1- Grand Final Preview
with Good Will Hunter
Sunday 21st September, 2.30pm – Springvale Reserve
East Brighton V Dingley
And then there were two!
East Brighton and Dingley will play off in the 2014 Grand Final, which is a just reward for their tremendous form throughout the year.
Dingley has enjoyed a dream season, dropping just one game to finish two wins clear atop the Division One ladder.
That loss, against St Pauls in round 13, was quickly forgotten, as the Dingoes responded the following week with a 119-point thrashing of Clayton to announce themselves as the team to beat in 2014.
As the Dingley juggernaut rolled on in the latter stages of the home and away season, it looked as if everyone else was just playing for second, such was their dominance.
East Brighton started their year in perfect fashion, avenging their 2013 Grand Final defeat with a two-goal victory over the Dogs.
The Vampires won their next five matches before the Dingoes inflicted their first loss of the year. They would lose just two more games for the season before finishing third on the ladder, behind St Pauls on percentage.
These two sides clashed twice during the home and away season, with Dingley claiming the bragging rights in both encounters.
In round seven they met at Hurlingham Park, with a six-goal second term setting the scene for the Dingoes’ 41-point win.
When Dingley hosted the Vampires in round 16 the result was similar. The home side restricted the red and whites to just one goal after quarter time as they stormed home to win by nine goals.
The only other meeting between these two clubs occurred in the Semi Final just two weeks ago, with East Brighton winning by 21 points to secure their spot in the big dance. The Vampires were ferocious in their attack on the footy that day and had the Dingoes rattled. For the first time all season, Dingley were made to look vulnerable at the contests and impotent up forward by an East Brighton outfit that simply stepped up and found another level on the big stage.
So if their previous meetings are any indication, this week’s premiership decider will be an epic spectacle and we are in for an absolute treat on Sunday afternoon.
Both teams have a vast array of talent all over the park, and game-winners on every line. More importantly, they have saved some of their best performances for the business end of the year.
Liam Bowman has been close to East Brighton’s best player through the finals series so far and will be their most important player again on Sunday. The champion backman has had a stellar season and will again be entrusted to shut down Dingley’s goal kicking machine, Dean Francis. Bowman gave Francis an absolute bath in the Semi Final, and this was one of the key factors behind their resounding triumph. Rarely beaten, and blessed with great disposal skills, Bowman is perhaps the league’s best defender and a vital cog in East Brighton’s water-tight defensive unit.
Francis on the other hand has been a revelation in his first season at Souter Oval since crossing from East Brighton, booting a competition-high 84 goals in his 19 games. The powerfully-built key forward can kick big bags of goals and win games off his own boot and could prove to be the final piece in Dingley’s premiership puzzle. A reliable kick for goal and capable of clunking big pack marks, Francis is impossible to stop when on song and if he gets his hands on the footy early he will likely tear the game apart.
Bowman V Francis is the most important match-up on the ground, and whoever gets on top here will be central to their side’s chances of winning the flag.
Vampire Hamish Dahl is another who will be hard to miss. Standing at over 200cm, Dahl cuts an imposing figure on the field and is one of the league’s top ruckmen. His finals series has also been terrific, with starring roles in both his side’s wins. His sheer size allows him to dominate the aerial battles, providing silver service to the onballers at his feet. With blokes like David De Luca, Sam Dillon and Will Hetherington getting first use of the footy at the contests, East Brighton could prove hard to stop.
Another of East Brighton’s strengths lies in its versatile forward structure, which boasts enough firepower to kick big scores. The bustling Damien Lynch is the focal point, while Toby Mahoney and Matt Jamieson are both capable of kicking multiple goals. Reigning Ellis Medallist Dean Williamson has also been thrown forward in the second half of the year with great effect, so expect an even spread of Vampires goalkickers.
But Dingley’s ability to run the ball through the guts could be what gets them over the line. The Lavars brothers – Tony and Brett – have shown they love to gallop, and are really dangerous when running the footy out of the backline, turning defence into attack in the blink of an eye. The Dingoes plethora of hard-running, line-breaking midfielders like Luke Walmsley, Luke Bartholomew and Jackson Peet will also be a massive danger, particularly if they can get forward and impact on the scoreboard. Add tough ball-winners like Dan Bolger and Josh Boyle and the Dingoes have the makings of a premiership midfield.
A Grand Final is a massive occasion for both competing clubs and whichever side settles their nerves first will be a huge chance to take home the silverware. East Brighton has been there and done that on the biggest stage before, so they will probably adjust to the tempo of the match earlier than their opponents. However, I reckon Dingley’s run will eventually prove too much for the Vampires and I’m tipping them to get home in a classic.
Dingley by five points.
DIVISION 2- Grand Final Preview
with Jason Barbin
This is it. After 18 home and away games and 3 weeks of finals, it comes down to that famous ‘One Day in September’ that Mike Brady describes so well. Out of the 10 teams that competed in Division 2 this season, only 2 remain. Minor Premiers Mordialloc take on 2nd
placed Skye in a battle not only for a spot in Division 1 in 2015, but also for the glory of being the best side in Division 2. It comes down to 4 quarters of hard fought, contested football and after those 80 minutes, a new champion will arise.
Mordialloc vs Skye (Jack Barker Oval)
Round 8 Mordialloc 4.6.30 defeated Skye 2.6.18
Round 17 Mordialloc 8.10.58 defeated Skye 2.12.24
Second Semi-Final Mordialloc 11.8.74 defeated Skye 5.10.40
Mordialloc began 2014 with a bang winning their first 4 games of the season. After finishing runner up in 2013 to Bentleigh and with punters questioning whether the loss would hurt them or inspire them, Mordialloc were looking for a fast start to the season and they got it. After losing to Springvale away from home the Bloods bounced right back with 2 straight wins before their all-important encounter with Skye. The Bombers were undefeated until that point and looked like they would be the team to challenge the Bloods for the flag. Though their first encounter wasn’t high in scoring, it showed just how close these two teams are. From that point onwards Mordialloc took a strangle hold on the competition, winning their remaining 10 games of the season to finish with a 17-1 record. They were dominant in almost every game they played, only being challenged a few times by teams fighting for finals positions. They took their opportunities to rest players when they could and it greatly benefitted the Bloods who now looked to have a near full strength side heading into the final. After having the first week of finals off, the Bloods won their 14th
straight game when they defeated Skye for a 3rd
time this season to win their way into their second straight Grand Final and another shot at the Division 2 flag.
It was a different sort of story for the Bombers in 2014. After failing to make the finals in 2013 and having been an average side since winning their way into Division 2, this was a question mark over how good this team could be. Could they go all the way? Like Mordialloc, the Bombers started their season with 4 straight wins. Though they were unconvincing, they started to develop a Fremantle type reputation for their defensive prowess, allowing a mere 55 points per game. It wasn’t until their round 5 win over an improving Caulfield outfit that they really began to show how good they can be. Two more solid wins against Moorabbin and Oakleigh Districts saw the Bombers sit on top of the ladder with 7 straight wins. Their first blemish of the season came in their round 8 loss to the Bloods, and though it was a close loss, questions were being asked if they could kick a winning score. Though they were 7-1, they only had one 100+ scoring game which came against bottom placed Moorabbin. Those questions were answered quickly as Skye started scoring more often and this resulted more dominant wins. After 3 straight 55+ point wins and a tough win against Oakleigh, Skye once again succumbed to the premiership favourites in another hard fought contest which again raised questions about whether they could kick a winning score against the top side going into the finals. They responded by kicking 27 goals in a huge win over Highett in the last game of the home and away season before reverting back to their defensive strategy, earning a berth in the 2014 Grand Final where they must attempt to kick a winning score against a defence that has allowed them to kick 9 goals in 3 games.
So in the 4th
matchup between these Division 2 rivals, what has changed? Absolutely nothing. These two sides are still hard hitting and hard running with plenty of players who have the ability to heavily influence the game. For both of these sides it starts in the middle. With the likes of Sam Anstey, Simon Fragiacomo and Todd Bastion in the midfield, the Bloods have enough grunt to get the ball moving forward with fluency to their tall timber up forward in James Morris and James Pennycuick. These two alone have kicked 89 goals and have been the focal point for Mordialloc this season. Down back Nick Corda will most likely have the job on dangerous forward Luke Mcguinness while Michael Barnhoorn will be responsible for marshalling the troops in the backline and providing run off the half back line.
For Skye, their key players in the midfield have to step up to give them a chance. If the likes of Jim Martinson, Mark Fedderson and Aaron Harper can gain some form of ascendancy in the midfield and move the ball quickly through the corridor and down to key forward Luke Mcguinness, they stand a chance of putting pressure on the Mordialloc backs and put them on the back foot. Despite kicking 69 goals for the season, Mcguinness has had a relatively disappointing finals series so far and the Bombers need him up and about if they are going to be any chance at all. Tim Barr and Ben Walker will also be important if Skye are going to kick a winning score, having kicked 46 goals between them this season. Down back, Aaron Hook and Travis Kitchin have been outstanding all season and will have the lock down roles on Morris and Pennycuick.
If Skye can get the jump on Mordialloc early then their defence may be able to hold off the Bloods who are capable of scoring quickly. The Bloods face a similar scenario. They have proven that they can break down the Bombers defence and if they do so early on then they can break the game wide open. Both teams boast strong midfields and they will be the deciding factor in who wins this game. Like most punters out there, I think this game will be close and one for the ages. But with a 3-0 record against their opponent this season, Mordialloc should be too strong.
Mordialloc by 4 points
Under 19′s – Grand Final Preview
With Josh Schonafinger
Bentleigh v Dingley - Sunday September 21, 9.30am - Springvale Reserve
Bentleigh’s undefeated season means that they’ve claimed two minor premierships in two years. They’ve been the dominant side over 24 months, but at the time of writing, don’t have a major flag to show for it. That could all change today when the Dees take on Dingley.
Any superlative feels like it does justice to Bentleigh’s brilliant season, and it is difficult to find any flaws. They first hit top spot on the ladder at round three, and wouldn’t relinquish that position for the rest of the season. Finding a fault in their performance is well-nigh impossible: their narrowest victories came against Clayton and Skye, both who fell short by two goals. Both side defeated them however, and with around a month remaining, it was clear that the Dees would get the first week of finals off by finishing on top.
Obviously in the match-ups between Bentleigh and Dingley this season, the Dees have won them all. But no side has challenged them as consistently as Dingley, which means that Bentleigh won’t be taking today’s match for granted. In round two, the difference was only 16 points, and it was 26 points when they met in round 11. In the semi final clash between the two, Jack Gadakis inspired his side over the line by 13 points. Not much separates the two, but Bentleigh have just had their measure on every occasion.
A great side is supported by its great players, and this season they’ve had a lot, too many to mention for this preview. Crucial to success will be the league’s leading goal-kicker Nicholas Lowrie, who has bagged 71 goals this year. Kade Heaphy-Wemyss and Spencer Daly have consistently been in the best and know that one more good performance could be enough for the ultimate success.
Can they win the title they felt they deserved last season? They won’t want to miss another golden opportunity.
Heading in as massive underdogs can be a blessing in disguise. Externally, no one is giving the Dingley a chance against the undefeated Bentleigh today. Internally, they rate themselves, and they know the pressure is all on the opposition today.
The Dingoes have been fairly consistent this year, are very fit and strong defensively. They lost twice to Bentleigh in the home and away matches, and also lost once to Clayton and St Pauls. After round 13, the Dingoes sat at nine wins and four losses, clinging to third spot only by percentage. But a strong final month was just the tonic and the Dingoes stormed home to finish in second spot. Luke Heywood and Jake Townley especially impressed over this period.
In the first week of finals, Dingley just snuck past Clayton by nine points in a high scoring affair. In the semi final, they fell to Bentleigh by only 13 points. The result would have been disappointing, but there were plenty of positives to take out from it. This of course they did, and went on to defeat Clayton again, by 30 points to book the grand final berth.
Instrumental in the preliminary final victory were the forward duo of Caelin Brooker and Vincent Arena, both of whom will be absolutely vital in today’s match. They’ve got 100 goals between them for the season, and if they both click, the game will be turned on its head.
They’ve got statistically the best defence in the league (even superior to Bentleigh’s), and mentally they can play with nothing to lose. But the Dees have already beaten them three times this year. Is it possible? Dingley President Leigh Menzel believes his troops must aim for the stars:
“We know our boys can win this one, but it will depend on their mindset and whether they believe it themselves.”
Thirds – Grand Final Preview
With Josh Schonafinger
Dingley v Skye – Saturday September 20, 9.30am - Jack Barker Oval, Cheltenham.
They haven’t forgotten. Last year Skye won the minor premiership and looked set for higher honours, but were bundled out in straight sets. It’s a record that the Bomber boys are keen to rectify, and right from the get go in 2014, they meant business.
At round ten, Skye had won ten straight and sat on top of the table. Sharpshooter Bradley Dyer was in terrific touch, and would push on to kick the most goals in the league.
However the Bombers hit their first hurdle in round 11 when Dingley convincing beat them by 56 points, and then Cerberus scraped past them the next week by ten points. It was Chris Deluca and Blake Bormann who got the team back on track, and from there on Skye would only lose once more, to Clayton in round 16, by 21 points.
Things were a little uncertain at the start of the season, and President Christian McGuire said the Bombers had some unfinished business. “Finishing on top last year and going out in straight sets really hurt the boys. It certainly wasn't how we wanted to finish.”But, as the wins started to come, so did the belief. “I guess as we got going we set ourselves a goal to beat the best, play with pride and go one better to reach a grand final.”McGuire said.
Today they face the Dingley Dingoes, the minor premiers and a side that Skye have already come up against three times this season. As mentioned, their round 11 clash was a write-off, with Dingley dominating and coming out victors by nine goals. When the time came to play again in round 17, it was the opposite result. Excellent performances from Shane Lloyd and Michael Kalviskis (and several others) lead the Bombers to a big 67 point win, after trailing at quarter time.
Then, after knocking off Mount Waverley in the qualifying final, Skye got the chance to take on the minor premiers again. The outcome was another big win for Skye, by 52 points, to earn them the week off and a place in the granny.
Of the players that remain from 2013’s unsuccessful finals campaign, last season still hurts. But the Bombers know they can make amends today with four strong quarters.
It was a nearly perfect season for Dingley, until they stumbled two weeks ago in the second semi-final.
Despite an early season loss to Cerberus, Dingley passed all challengers and sat atop the ladder from round 11 onwards. David Vanderheiden and Joshua Keyt were particularly impressive in this period and perhaps it looked like Dingley wouldn’t be matched again. But back-to-back suddenly wasn’t as assured as it seemed in round 17 when Skye trounced the Dingoes by 67 points.
Dingley president Leigh Menzel has reason to be confident heading into today’s GF. “After an outstanding 2013 which culminated in a premiership, we have had high hopes for our thirds boys in 2014.”Menzel said. However, despite getting the first week of finals off as a reward for finishing on top, Dingley lost to Skye again, turning the premiership race on its head.
They buttered up last week to smash Endeavour Hills by 75 points in the preliminary final, and now it’s back to anyone’s game.
“Premierships though are never a fait accompli, and Skye will push us all the way this Saturday.”Menzel said.
Michael Jeddou and Mark Wonnacott were exceptional in last week’s big win, and will be crucial to fortunes today. As mentioned, both sides have had their success against one another this season, with the ledger sitting in Skye’s favour two wins to one. When the Dingoes defeated the Bombers in Round 11, it was Peter Rizzi and Andrew Puleio who put in the best performances, with best on ground and three goals, respectively.
It’s fair to say that Dingley aren’t used to being the underdogs, given their great successes from the past couple of seasons. However, maybe it’s just the inspiration they need to overcome Skye and take a second consecutive flag.