Darley 13.3.81 defeat North Ballarat City 11.13.79
IN DRAMATIC fashion, Darley has remained in the hunt for their third Ballarat Football Netball League premiership in four years, with a victory over North Ballarat City this past Sunday.
The two point victory in the first semi-final showed the true character of the Darley Football Club with the come from behind victory setting up a blockbuster clash against East Point this coming Saturday in the Preliminary Final.
Sunday was a cold, miserable day in Ballarat with a breeze blowing towards the Eastern End of the ground.
Darley was forced to make a late change, with Shannon McDonald coming into the side for Lachie Herring, who was unable to get up after the bruising encounter the prior week against arch-rivals Bacchus Marsh.
North Ballarat City elected, during the week, to drop the Dunstan brothers, a move that surprised many in the League community. Darley Captain, Shane Page, won the toss in the do or die clash, and elected to kick towards the Eastern End.
Patches of drizzle fell throughout the opening half, making conditions slippery and difficult for either side going forward. After misses, respectively, it was Darley veteran, Dane Grenfell, who was able to opening proceedings with his outside of the boot kick, drawing first blood in the contest at the eleven minute mark.
Grenfell was able to repeat the dose at the 17-minute mark, with a classy tucked up against the boundary line to give the Devils an early eleven point lead over North Ballarat City. However, off the back of some undiscipline play; Tyler George was able to goal from the goal square minutes later to reduce the margin to five points.
2015 Henderson Medallist, Steven Kennedy, has had a huge back half of the season and his great form has carried on into the Ballarat Football Netball League Finals Series with the midfielder kicking a goal from 45 metres out to give Darley an eight point lead at the first break.
Despite trailing and kicking against the breeze in the opening term, North Ballarat City was the superior side in the first quarter, however extremely wasteful in front of goal with only one major and five behinds to their tally.
At his quarter time address, North Ballarat City Coach, Shane Skontra, said to his players to “Keep kicking in the corridor and most of all just continue to back yourself.”
Skontra’s attacking message was taken upon by his chargers to immediate affect with midifilder, Tim Spiers snapping a wonderful goal from 45 metres out to reduce the margin to two points in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
Key forward, Will Young, has missed part of the season with an injured hamstring and only returned last week in the side’s loss to East Point. The ex-Adelaide Crow is widely known as a confidence player, and even though he was able to mark several times inside 50, his goal kicking let him down with his third behind coming at the five minute mark of the second term.
Young’s misses, as well as his teammates, did level scores for North Ballarat City. Marcus Darmody would put them in front at the nine minute mark with a set shot goal before Mitchell Johns made it three in a row for North Ballarat City minutes later and created a handy 12 point buffer.
However, the bad kicking trend continued for North Ballarat City with Darmody also missing vital shots on goal to bring their tally to ten behinds in the opening half.
The first half ended in tremendous fashion with the sides going goal for goal. Steven Kennedy kicked his second at the 25 minute mark, before Keenan George answered one minute later.
A minute after that, Tim Spiers kicked the goal of the day, off the back of a great centre clearance at the 27-minute mark, before Harley Inglis, also a minute later got a crucial late goal to keep Darley in it going to halftime.
North Ballarat City held a 15-point lead at the major break, and continued in their merry fashion at the start of the third term with Mitchell John’s slotting a goal from directly in front at the four minute mark.
Darley would kick the next two goals with Jake Ancrum and Harley Inglis both getting on the board for the Devils, before Tim Spiers, once again, showed his class with a magnificent third goal keeping the margin at 15-points by the ten mark of the third term.
However, the reigning premiers would flex their muscles over the remainder of the term kicking five unanswered goals to storm to the lead. Grenfell kicked his third and fourth goal, Kennedy got his third to put them back in front and even the most unlikely sources of goal in Shannon McDonald and Jackson Carrick got majors to give the Devils a 14-point lead at the final break.
Darley’s accurate and North Ballarat City’s inaccurate kicking was the real tale of the tape with the final term shaping up to be anyone’s game, really. The sun broke through to bath the City Oval and would help North Ballarat City in the attempts to keep their season alive.
Off the back of a 50 metre penalty, Mitch Gilbert was able to get the first goal of the final term, before Matthew Young took the advantage from a Grenfell free kick at full forward to keep the margin at 14-points at the seven minute mark.
With the breeze and utter dominance, North Ballarat continued to try and make inroads but was halted by Brian Graham. Graham was moved to halfback this week and continued to mark everything that came his way and racked 40 plus disposals for the afternoon.
However, there was nothing Graham could do about Marcus Darmody later in the final term, with the key forward kicking two clutch set shot goals to get the margin back to two points as the final quarter ticked into time on.
The season was on line for both sides and North Ballarat City, having all the momentum, it was Mitchell Johns who was presented the chance to win the game at the 26-minute mark. Johns took a fantastic contested pack mark about 40 metres out with no real angle to speak of; however his kick way to right of goal and went out on the full.
North Ballarat City who shot themselves in the foot in the 2018 Finals Series with bad kicking costing them not one but two finals and knocking them out of the competition for season 2018.
Post game, Darley coach, Heath Scotland was proud with his side’s 23 point turn around saying, “We did get lucky, however credit to the boys, we were able to stick to the task and live to fight another day.”
The thrilling two point victory means Darley live to fight another day and will have to be at their very best next week against East Point. The Devils will be carrying a few sore bodies off the six day break; however, they have shown that they have enough guts and determination in the line-up and that another premiership in the Ballarat Football Netball league is not out of the realms of possibility.