By Nick Creely
JOURNAL FOOTBALL REVIEW
SOUTHERN – DIVISION 3 GRAND FINAL
Only a champion team can lift itself off the canvas when the game looks buried and find the will to win.
That’s exactly what the Doveton Eagles did on Saturday in what was a gripping grand final clash with Endeavour Hills at Jack Barker Oval in Cheltenham.
In a game of spits and spurts of momentum for each side, the Eagles found the winner late with a clutch set-shot from the 50-metre arc by Russell Robertson, 13.6(84) to 13.10(88).
It took just 30 seconds for the scoring to begin on Saturday, with Nick Gay running into an open goal to give the Falcons the dream start.
The Falcons – in their first senior grand final ever – settled into the contest quicker, and with the likes of Daniel Batson and Byron Hoe playing big roles in the first, managed to hold a slender nine-point quarter time lead.
A rev up by Eagles coach Simon Caldwell provided the catalyst for a quick response, with the underdogs producing a sensational second quarter, kicking six of the next seven goals to all of a sudden race out to a 22-point half time lead.
Eventual best-afield Michael Callinan was causing plenty of headaches through the midfield, often bursting out of a stoppage unopposed to give forwards Russell Robertson and Adam Read silver service.
A move to the midfield by Batson – and a tougher, more competitive showing in the middle – saw the Falcons immediately regain the momentum after the major break.
After three brain fades that resulted in 50 metre penalties, the Falcons made the Eagles pay for ill-discipline, with goals to Joel Marie, Chris Webber and the brilliant Batson pegging the margin back to five-points.
Only moments after Batson sunk his set-shot, Marie – who was helping turn the game on its head – found space to kick a goal to put the Falcons in front.
That momentum continued through to the early stages of the final term, with Nathan Strom and Hoe kicking goals to bring the margin all the way out to a game high 28-point lead.
A response was needed from the Eagles – and a response they got.
All of a sudden – with nothing left to lose – the Eagles started pulling the trigger, with skipper Corrie Wilson in particular starting to lift in the middle and hit his targets.
An outstanding bit of play by Jarrod O’Neill saw the margin cut back to a gettable 14-points only nine-minutes into play, before Robertson eventually stole victory with only two minutes left with a clutch shot that sent the crowd into raptures.
Even though Robertson was well held for the most part by Falcons defender Ben Moriaty in an absorbing one-on-one battle, the ex-AFL man’s class shone through.
Meanwhile, in Division 2 action, Keysborough was knocked out of the premiership race after a surprising 20-point preliminary final loss to Murrumbeena on Saturday at Meade Reserve, 3.11(29) to 5.19(49).