Mazenod saved their most impressive performance of the year for the first final. Having split their matches with Caulfield Grammarians during the season, and with just half a game separating the two teams at the end of the regular season, most observers saw the qualifying final as a flip-of-the-coin. However, the Nodders have risen above expectations all season, and Saturday was no different.
From the opening bounce, Mazenod’s defensive pressure was relentless. They forced their opponents into error and then pounced on nearly every opportunity. The tackling machine, Steve Welsford was in his element, Ben Phibbs was racking up possessions at will and Rees Thomas was looking potent up forward. At quarter time, the Nodders had opened up a 23-point advantage.
The Nodders did not relent in the second, holding the normally high-scoring Caulfield scoreless while adding a further three goals. Despite losing Premier C Team of the Year half back, Dean Izon, early in the quarter, the back six held firm and the lead stretched to 46 points at the long break.
Caulfield came out firing in the third and kicked the opening goal, but the Nodders responded with two of their own to snuff out any hint of a comeback. Mazenod’s were running on top of the deck with skipper Rob Mann and Liam Riley everywhere. The highlight of the quarter came from Brad Kovac who ran 100 metres to a contest in the forward pocket, kept the ball in play, gave it to a teammate and then kept running until he received it in the goal square. The resulting goal was one of two second-half efforts that typified the relentlessness of the Nodders. The second came on the other side of the final break.
With the game all but over, Caulfield went forward. A low spearing pass was kicked to a leading Caulfield player. He may have marked it, gone back and kicked a meaningless goal, but instead Tom McKenna put himself between the ball and the opposition and took a typically courageous mark. He didn’t have to, and no one would have noticed if he didn’t, but he did it anyway. That is the way this Mazenod team plays. There is no regard for expectation or excuses; they just get on with it.
The final margin was 83 points. The Nodders will now enjoy a week off before they face either Caulfield or Peninsula in the big one. They will get on with it one more time.
1.5-11 1.5-11 3.8-26 4.13-37
5.4-34 8.9-57 13.9-87 18.12-120
Goal Kickers: R. Thomas 3, B. Kovac 3, T. Cincotta 3, N. Thomas 2, L. Riley 2, A. Taun-Henderson 2, J. Murdock, B. Phibbs, S. Welsford
Best Players: R. Mann, J. Hill, L. Riley, S. Welsford, N. Gentile, B. Kovac
The Reserves were very much the underdogs going into Saturday’s qualifying final. However, despite having lost both home and away matches to Caulfield and finishing three and a half games back, Coaches Wayne Poulter and Steve Balloch were confident that they had the right formula to topple the ladder leaders.
The first quarter gave cause for optimism as the defensive efforts of Michael Rice and Patty Flanagan ensure that Caulfield were kept in check in the first. At quarter time, scores were level.
Caulfield began to take control in the second, kicking three goals to Mazenod’s nil. Outside observers may have seen the writing on the wall, but neither Poults nor Steve do much reading, so they weren’t the least bit concerned at the long break.
In the third, Daniel Hayes and Visesio Saina began to impose themselves on the game. As things opened up, it was the Nodders who took advantage, drawing to within two points at the final break.
In a classic last quarter, full of tension and hard hits, the Nodders hit the lead with about five minutes to play. They then exhibited enormous character to hold on to win by two points and book a place in the grand final. No one could now doubt their ability to win it.
2.1-13 5.5-35 7.5-47 8.8-56
2.1-13 2.3-15 7.3-45 9.4-58
Goal Kickers: D. Hayes 2, F. Palleschi 2, P. Rozanitis 2, J. Trounce, J. Sharp, B. Woods
Best Players: D. Hayes, V. Saina, C. Poretti, P. Flanagan, M. Rice, J. Sharp
The Nodders started brightly, taking a two-goal lead into the first change. Parkside hit back in the second, but it remained tight and just three points separated the teams at half-time.
The third quarter was from the top-shelf. Both sides displayed tremendous skill as they attacked relentlessly in an effort to break the other. The result was a highly entertaining , end-to-end quarter that saw 15 goals kicked. Parkside had slightly more chances and extended the lead to 12 points. Unfortunately, the Nodders were shot and Parkside ran away with it in the last, but the eventual 49-point margin did not reflect the difference between the two teams for most of the day.
Tom Riley was again brilliant, as he has been all season. His four goals gave a spark to his teammates, but he certainly didn’t play a lone hand. Nathan Smith and Jayden Brown were standouts all day, while Josh Cochrane continued his good form with three goals. The future looks very bright.
Parkside Football Club
1.2-8 4.7-31 12.10-82 18.17-125
3.2-20 4.4-28 11.4-70 12.4-76
Goal Kickers: T. Riley 4, J. Cochrane 3, C. Martin 2, M. Zogoulas 2, M. Jago
Best Players: N. Smith, J. Brown, T. Riley, M. Zogoulas, A. Khaiyath, J. Mountford