It turned out to be a beautiful day at Casey Playing Fields as both the Seniors and U/19s booked a spot in the Grand Final. The U/19s will play Old Ivanhoe next week, while the Seniors will have to wait another week before learning their opponent.
It is fair to say the Bloods were the underdogs in the clash with Caulfield Grammarians. We had won only one of the four games leading up to the semi final, while Caulfield had only lost two games for the season. We did, however, thrash them earlier in the year, so we knew our best could match them. Heavy conditions greeted the boys and it was soon apparent that it was going to be a typical finals arm wrestle.
It was a tense first ten minutes as both sides were settling into a rhythm. It was played between the two half back lines with only a couple of shots on goal. Then both teams had opportunities to score but couldn’t get the major. Finally, Corey Connelly broke the drought kicking truly after a strong mark. Our forwards were looking dangerous being constantly on the move, while the backline was holding up well. Importantly the on-ball brigade were making life difficult for their Caulfield opponents, preventing them from getting their running game going. Jacko was tremendous in the ruck and it was a great sight seeing the rucks going at each other. Trevvo took a couple of telling marks across half back and when Corey Rich snapped truly we went into the first break with a seven point lead. Wardy had implored the boys to focus on 30 minutes of dedicated pressure and they delivered. All supporters were hoping they could continue it.
The early signs were good. Lead by Jimmy Paul and Ed Limon, it was apparent the boys remained focused. Caulfield kicked the first for the quarter and the arm wrestle continued. We answered quickly however through some Ed Limon guile and strength. That left foot was proving effective. Some messy passages followed which allowed Caulfield another major. But Pop soon clawed it back after a free kick. The umpires weren’t paying a lot of frees so this was warranted but precious. The younger brigade of Jack Munro and Brodie Steele were using their finals experience to effect, holding up the opposition, but also providing plenty of drive. After another close quarter, we went into the main break with a handy nine point lead. It had been a tense half and the second shaped up as being similar.
Once again Caulfield got the first major for the quarter but again we replied quickly via a snap off the pack from Alfy. This was to prove decisive as Caulfield appeared to be getting more effective use of the ball. But the forward line was doing a good job in keeping the ball in our zone and preventing any run from the opposition. The vital third quarter proved to be ours with Aaron Toy leading the backline, ably assisted by Nicho and Scotty Ellis who was taking on the “talls”. They were holding up really well and prevented Caulfield from adding another major. Meanwhile Corey Rich had popped up again to score. Another one from Shane Valenti meant that we were going into the last quarter with a 20 point lead. While Waitey hadn’t scored, he was drawing the opposition, creating opportunities for his team mates.
So we come to last quarter and spectators were getting hopefully nervous (or at least I was). But Caulfield soon showed why they had been the top side, scoring a goal in the first passage from the bounce. And after getting the next centre clearance, the nerves were getting more frayed. We settled however as Shak and Plymo began to get more of the ball. A Jordy Donnelly goal on the run restored calm but Caulfield answered. But then Jimmy Paul stepped up for a Captain’s major. Waitey took a couple of telling marks and after one, cleverly passed to Corey Connelly who duly slotted the major. We could breathe a little easier. The arm wrestles continued for another 10 minutes but we held firm. The siren sounded for an extremely well-earned Bloods victory. It had been a great team effort. Every player contributed and committed mind and body when called upon. CARNA BLOODS!
The precedent was set by the U/19s who also put on a sensational committed team effort. The first quarter was tight with the highlight being Rayner Seccull’s opening goal for the game. Ollie Shap was in a great struggle on the ball and Will Paul was getting in and under. We found ourselves with a small lead at quarter time and it appeared that it was going to be a close encounter.
The second quarter proved decisive. Ari Ventouras started converting, while Riley Thompson was repelling off the half back line. Spencer Ward also stepped up and started getting some crucial disposals. The boys had held Marcellin goalless for the quarter and went into the main break with a handy 26 point break. It had been a good quarter with Marcellin not getting any easy possessions.
The third quarter belonged to the Bloods. Marcellin did not score for the quarter as the young Bloods asserted their authority. Kirky and Joel Constable were repelling any Marcellin thrusts and setting up opportunities for the forwards who scored six goals for the quarter.
With the game effectively over, the highlight of the last quarter was a Jack Mchale goal that was one for the ages. He handballed and collected the ball three times before snapping truly from the boundary. Marcellin couldn’t find a clear way to their goals as the boys maintained the rage. It ended up being an emphatic display and sets the boys up for a big performance in their second consecutive Grand Final.
It was a great day for the club with a return to B Grade and a brilliant preliminary final victory from the U/19s.
Gotta love footy in September!