By Alex Charles
At last we’d arrived at the Springvale Reserve on Sunday morning for the long-awaited Grand Final rematch between Hampton and St Kilda. The difference between this season and last? Hampton took the minor premiership – but not by much.
St Kilda entered the fixture in hot form and given their experience from seasons gone they were expected to be up for this contest in their quest to go back-to-back. For the Hammers, there was a hint of revenge for the remaining players but it was business as usual.
Fortunately, the game avoided the overcast and challenging conditions many of the seniors would face later on in the day.
And onto the football. Hampton raced out to an 18-1 lead at the 11-minute mark of the first quarter only for St Kilda to respond late with two majors. A five-point lead didn’t seem to justify Hampton’s strong early performance, and with this late Saints flurry the game became an arm-wrestle.
As mentioned, the game certainly evened out as the second term saw only one goal to Hampton and four behinds for the Saints. A 10-point margin at the break showed just how little there was in it. Nevertheless, Hampton’s backs continued to hold the Saints forwards during the third term. Mykelti Lefau managed to kick his first but still wasn’t having the impact he’d hoped for.
Inaccuracy was hampering the Saints as they had less scoring shots going into the final change of the season but consequently trailed by 19. But as most champion teams do, the Saints mounted one last challenge for the title.
With a premiership on the line the big guns came to play. St Kilda flew back into the contest at the start of the last. Lefau, Vinh Danh, Jesse Firebrace and Hamish Johnstone and stamped their authority on the game with one last push for victory and these individual efforts were key in gaining the lead towards the end of the quarter.
Holding a four-point lead, St Kilda City managed to hold their nerve in one of the greatest games the league has seen at any level. The Saints had completed the comeback to the double and go back-to-back!
Hampton’s heartbreak was evident as the siren blew and having had chances in the last term to close the game out, it was a bitter pill to swallow after also coming so close during 2015. Still, their players can definitely hold their heads high after a stellar season. With a young list and plenty of depth, experience and skill, it is these positives that keep teams together and hungry for success. I have no doubt they’ll be back as one of the best sides for 2017.
Moreover, St Kilda have shown again why they will go down as one of the great sides. Not many teams in any division or league across Australia can say they have gone back-to-back but these boys, thanks to an incredible organisation, have done just that.
What a fantastic game we witnessed to finish a wonderful season. We can’t wait to see what 2017 brings.
Thanks for reading!
Photos from the Australian Rules Football College Under 19 Grand Final can be purchased here thanks to Memento Sports.
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Mykelti Lefau channels his inner Dustin Martin in dishing out another 'don't argue'.[/caption]
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The electric Jesse Firebrace.[/caption]
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Ryan Carroll has been outstanding all year for the Hammers.[/caption]
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Vinh Dang receives the Barnes Medal for best afield.[/caption]
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Back-to-back flags for the Saints.[/caption]