’Roos down Darley for grand final berth
By Sam Young
East Point 15.18.108 def Darley 5.6.36
THE BALLARAT Football Netball League Grand Final will be decided between the Melton Football Club and East Point who crushed the reigning premiers Darley to advance to the big stage.
The Kangaroos have progressed to remarkably only their second grand final with the empathic 72-point win in a dramatic contest last Saturday at the City Oval.
Formed in a merger between East Ballarat and Golden Point back in the year 2000, original East Ballarat supporters have to go back to 1993 since their last taste of premiership success, whilst Golden Point’s was all the way back in the mid ‘80s.
It will be a rematch from the second semi-final only a couple weeks ago, where the Bloods impressively put away the minor premiers, in a seesawing affair, to book their place in a grand final for the first time since 2005.
Darley bow out of the competition after progressing through an injury-plagued season where fans saw 42 different players pull on the black and white. It was one of the highest number of different players fielded by any side this season. Saturday’s game saw wet, freezing conditions, with a strong cross breeze at the ground, which put a further dampener on the game.
Both sides made late changes, with East Point recalling Mickitja Rotumah-Onus, who overcame a broken finger that kept him out of the line-up last week, whilst the Devils welcomed back Lachlan Herring who replaced tagger, Matthew Young.
Darley’s captain, Shane Page won the toss and elected to kick to the favourable City End and that allowed the Devils the early attacking, but were unable to make major inroads on the scoreboard.
At the 13-minute mark of the opening term, Daniel Semmens showed enough mercurial presence, inside 50, to snap around the body and open the goal scoring stakes.
A couple minutes later, Essendon’s VFL-listed player, Joel Ottavi, marked strongly and converted from 40 metres to give the Kangaroos the early advantage.
In the wet conditions, East Point looked the far better side in every capacity. Particularly, their tall forwards looked far superior in the greasy conditions, still able to mark under extreme pressure against their much smaller Darley opponents.
At the 19-minute mark, East Points Jordan Johnston extended the lead to 18 points with his thumping kick from 45 metres out, splitting the middle. As the term ticked into time, Darley’s Mark Hanson successfully hacked one out of mid air in the goal square, to draw one back for the Devils.
Yet this mini fight back would not last, with East Point exuding their dominance once again with late inclusion Rotumah Onus, getting the instant response with the Kangaroos next attacking foray. 26 minutes in, Johnston snapped his second from the boundary with one of the goals of the season, giving East Point a 28-point lead at the first break.
It was an impressive term for the Kangaroos but it wasn’t without casualties with Jordan Payne breaking his jaw in a contest late in the term meaning that he wouldn’t take any further part in the match and also most likely finishes his season.
During his quarter time address, Coach Heath Scotland tried his best to relay a positive message to his players to keep them motivated. Scotland said, “We are the better team in the contest… keep up the communication and the results will follow.”
The positive message from Scotland didn’t inspire his chargers, with East Point again far too good for the Devils. Ottavi won a free kick up forward to help slot home his second of the afternoon early in the second quarter, whilst Chris Quinlan made the margin 39-points with his long range effort at the 14-minute mark.
Darley could only manage the one behind in the entire term, despite the sunshine breaking through and drying up conditions. Matthew Johnston would join his brother on the scoresheet with his very own goal of the day contender.
A goal after the siren from some undisciplined Devils play, gifted Jordan Johnston his third and the ‘Roos a commanding 55-point halftime lead.
Ugly scenes at halftime followed with the players’ melee ending proceedings before an altercation between a number of Devils players and one East Point fan resulted in the police showing up to escort the fan out of the ground.
The rain returned to start the second half and the game became a real slog with East Point happy to take stoppage after stoppage to bring them one step closer to the grand final.
The Kangaroos defence was excellent one-on-one on the weekend but could do nothing about the Devils second goal of the game with Dylan Reid launching from 60 at the 13-minute mark of the third term.
Darley was going to have to be at their damaging best to comeback from the huge margin and their star midfield in Brian Graham, Steven Kennedy and Luther Baker were going to have to take their game to an even higher level. However, with Matthew Johnston dominant in the clearance stakes, they were unable to get on top and East Point restored their 55-point lead through Joel Ottavi.
The Devils finally scored back-to-back goals with Hanson’s second and the unlikely source of Corey Cullen wobbling one through late in the term, making it a 41-point margin at three quarter time.
At his three quarter time address, East Point Coach, Jake Bridges, could sense the moment reminding his side that they were only 30-minutes away from playing on grand final day. Bridges told his players to continue to control the ball, soak up the clock, but most importantly, stay dominate and finish off the statement that they were sending to Melton.
At the two minute mark of the final term, Semmens got out the back to kick his second major before Mark Hanson responded with his third goal, which inside a bit of individual brilliance to cap off a great performance from him personally on the day.
Darley had kicked three of the last four goals, but it was all a little too late with a quick fire double from Ottavi signally the end for Devils as the lead climbed back to a 55-point margin.
Rotumah-Onus snagged a second goal and fittingly veteran Brad Whittaker kicked the last major of the day to send East Point to the 2018 grand final with a 72-point victory.
The minor premiers, East Point, may now take back favourites tag against Melton on grand final day after the impressive performance showcasing that their mojo is back.
Both sides will have tough decisions to make with Jake McQueen becoming available for East Point again after Essendon bowed out of the VFL competition. If Payne is unable to play with a broken jaw, McQueen will come into the line-up but bridges may need to recall Andrew Macconchie to ensure stability in his sides back six.
For Melton, Co-Captain, Ben Archard, hurt his ankle in his sides victory over East Point two weeks ago and reports are he has struggled to train with the injury. Archard is irreplaceable for the Bloods and Aaron Tymms will be giving him every chance to available for the grand final.
The Ballarat Football Netball League will start at 2:15pm at Mars Stadium this Saturday and will also be steamed live on the AFL Goldfields website for all those who are unable to attend.