Division 3 Grand Final Preview

By Andrew Paloczi


Springvale Districts vs Endeavour Hills


Sunday 16 September - Power Reserve

Previous meetings this season:
Round 2 -
Endeavour Hills 5.9-39 def Springvale Districts 5.2-32
Round 9 - Springvale Districts 6.8-44 def Endeavour Hills 3.8-26
Round 16 - Springvale Districts 13.9-87 def Endeavour Hills 3.7-25

Endeavour Hills and Springvale Districts moved on quickly from disappointing finishes to the 2017 season.

The Falcons could have dwelled on a narrow grand final loss, after appearing set for promotion with a 26-point lead over Doveton Eagles early in the final term.

Springvale Districts had every reason to grumble, being relegated from Division 2 despite finishing with six wins, five games ahead of last-placed Heatherton.

Neither club wasted time pondering injustice or asking what could have been.

Both swiftly began laying foundations for a premiership assault in 2018.

The nature of those foundations was similar for the Demons and Falcons, consisting of outstanding player retention, astute recruiting and a commitment to building already high fitness levels.

Neither Endeavour Hills nor Springvale Districts suffered any significant player losses after the 2017 season.

That reflects the strong culture of these clubs and the welcoming environment they provide.

However, neither club was satisfied with just retaining players, with each significantly enhancing its list through shrewd recruiting.

Endeavour Hills added a classy and versatile group from Narre Warren, including Sam McLean, Nathan Reid, Andrew Vella, Daniel Cann and Ben Holland.

Strong-marking forward Tom Gillies joined the Falcons from Berwick.

Those additions have had a positive impact during the season and Reid, Vella and Cann all featured prominently in Endeavour Hills’ preliminary final win over Hampton Park.

Springvale Districts added prolific ball winners George Angelopoulos and Sam Raru.

Angelopoulos has played every game this season, contributing significantly in the midfield, whilst averaging more than a goal per match.

His semi final display against Hampton Park was exemplary, with his work around the ground and three goals helping set up the Demons’ direct passage to the grand final.

Raru has played 16 matches, booting 25 goals and his silky skills enable him to provide abundant opportunities for teammates.

Despite the powerful lists at their disposal, Endeavour Hills’ coach Rob Dipper and his Springvale Districts’ counterpart Kris Thompson were not prepared to rely on talent alone.

“We know we’ve got to go to another level. So we’ve trained a bit harder and (done) a bit more fitness and strengthening over the off season,” Dipper declared just prior to the commencement of the 2018 season.

Thompson notes, “Our guys have built a fitness base that started in November last year.”

It is tough to separate this weekend’s grand final combatants given the clubs will each field skilful, fit and well-balanced sides.

Making it even more difficult to pick the winner, both the Demons and Falcons are well organised and disciplined in their onfield approach.

“We’re very structured in the way we play footy and the way we prepare. So that gives you confidence to know what your role is,” Thompson says.

He believes having a clear understanding of how they can best contribute to the team will help players keep nerves at bay, even with a premiership on the line.

However, Endeavour Hills places just as much significance on adhering to structures and provided a masterclass in the art with its organised and committed preliminary final performance.

One point of difference is that the Falcons come into the decider with the experience of last year’s close grand final behind them, whilst Springvale Districts hasn’t featured in a senior grand final since 2007.

However, the Demons have a core group of players who have tasted premiership success elsewhere and that will hold the side in good stead.

That group includes Mladen Josic and Daniel Saldanha (both Oakleigh District), George Angelopoulos (Noble Park), Sam Raru (Oakleigh Chargers) and Daniel Morris (Dingley).

Both sides will arrive at the grand final embracing the excitement of the build up to the big match, but having kept their routines as close to normal as possible.

The coaches are looking forward to their teams running out for what both anticipate will be a stern challenge.

“They’ve got tough mids. (It’s) going to be a hard game. We’ve got to win clearances. They’re a good side,” Dipper says of the Demons.

“We really rate them (Endeavour Hills) as a side and we have all year. Their brand of footy’s good to watch and they can beat anyone on their day. We’ll have to be at our best to beat them,” Thompson declares.

As well as Dipper’s recognition of the need to win control of the midfield battle, he mentions the importance of combating dangerous Demon Mitch Betson.

Betson has played in two of the three matches between these adversaries this season, booting a couple of majors and featuring in his side’s best on both occasions.

Lachie Morrey will also concern Endeavour Hills, having kicked eight majors in his three 2018 hitouts against the Falcons.

Stefan ‘Poppa’ Feehan is another damaging forward for Springvale Districts, having topped the division’s goal kicking and with 50 majors to his name this year.

Jarrod Marolla leads the goal kicking for the Falcons with 34.

Endeavour Hills is capable of spreading its scoring across a range of players with ten Falcons contributing their side’s 11 majors in the preliminary final.

However, against this week’s opponent, Endeavour Hills has cobbled together a total of just 11 goals in three games.

In those matches, Springvale Districts has tallied 24 goals.

However, 13 of those came in the sides’ Round 16 encounter, with the Demons being held to five and six goal totals in their other meetings with Endeavour Hills.

Endeavour Hills will hold its defensive structure and won’t make scoring easy for the Demons, but as Dipper alluded the Falcons must gain the midfield ascendency to have a realistic chance of booting a winning score.

It will be an absorbing afternoon with a tight finish likely.

Having predicted prior to the season that Springvale Districts would be the premier, with Endeavour Hills runner up, this scribe sees no reason to alter that view.

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