Division 1 Finals Preview

By Will Hunter


East Malvern V Mordialloc


Saturday 15 September - Springvale Reserve

Previous Meetings:
Round 2 –
East Malvern 11.7 (73) def Mordialloc 8.8 (56)
Round 11 – Mordialloc 12.11 (83) def East Malvern 8.2 (50)
Qualifying Final – East Malvern 7.12 (54) def Mordialloc 3.4 (22)

It’s do or die in the penultimate match of the season, with East Malvern and Mordialloc going head to head for the right to take on St Pauls in the 2018 Grand Final.

The two combatants faced off in the Qualifying Final just a fortnight ago, with the Panthers giving the Bloods the old short back and sides in a decidedly lop-sided contest.

However, they say a week is a long time in football, and just eight days later Mordialloc responded with a top-shelf performance to unexpectedly demolish the rampaging Dingley and recapture the sort of form that propelled the Bloods to 11 consecutive wins in the middle part of the season.

East Malvern, meanwhile, lost no admirers in defeat to the side that finished three games clear on top of the Division 1 ladder, with its fightback in the last quarter and a half proving that the Panthers are never out of the contest at any stage.

The key to victory for both teams lies within their respective midfield groups.

The Panthers have one of the strongest midfield combinations in the competition, with equal parts talent and experience.

Veterans Steve Brewer and Ryan Mullett are both premiership players at high levels and know what it takes to get the job done on the big stage, so their leadership and class will be vital on Saturday. But they also bat deep, the Panthers, and if either of these two are kept quiet, you can bet that Luke Duffy, Nathan Robinson or Mark Tyrell will step up to the plate.

If superstar ruckman Chris Carey can get on top in the air and palm the ball down his midfielders’ throats, then the Panthers will be damn hard to stop. His opposite number in Michael ‘Buddy’ Spohn is a similarly supreme athlete that has come on in leaps in bounds in his first season in the SFNL’s top flight, but a match-up against Carey will be a massive test of his abilities.

However, Jordan Derbyshire’s return last week greatly bolsters the Blood’s midfield stocks. A big bodied onballer that’s as hard as nails, Derbyshire’s ability to win the ball in the trenches is a valuable asset, while his propensity to go in even harder when the going gets tough inspires his teammates around him.

With skipper Todd Bastion hitting peak form at the right time, Lachlan Bull and Nathan Evans providing plenty of outside run, and the classy Danny Nicholls and Aaron Kneebone both capable of turning games with 20 minutes of brilliance, Mordialloc are a massive chance to reverse their recent result against East Malvern.

Last week was the best footy that Mordialloc have played in two months, and it was pleasing to see James Morris get off the chain and hit the scoreboard. However, the Panthers have had a plethora of goalscoring options at their disposal, including Alex Hywood, Xavier Linton and Marc Lonergan. Even Vic Metro defender Lucas Hall has proven his value when swung forward, slotting 14 goals for the season.

Make no mistake, this will be an absolutely tremendous contest as both sides give it their all to keep their dream of a maiden Division 1 Senior premiership alive.

At their best, East Malvern and Mordialloc are difficult to split, and this clash could genuinely go either way. However, one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and it would be remiss to be swayed toward Mordialloc on the basis of their last match alone, ignoring the Panthers’ impressive body of work over the last couple of months.

East Malvern should just sneak home but rest assured Mordialloc won’t go done without an almighty fight.

East Malvern by 10 points.

League Partners