By Nick Creely
VICTORIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE
REVIEW – SEMI FINAL
In finals, nothing short of a four quarter effort ensures victory.
And for Casey, they learnt the hardest lesson of all on Saturday against Richmond at Fortburn Stadium, going out in straight sets after a second quarter onslaught saw them unable to reel back a match-winning deficit.
After taking a narrow two-point lead into quarter time, the signs were positive when Tom Bugg slotted a goal in the opening moments to give the Dees the dream start to the second.
But from there disaster struck, and with it came a flurry of Tiger goals courtesy of a zippy small forward line containing names such as Shai Bolton, Connor Menadue, Sam Lloyd and Tyson Stengle, with the Demons conceding eight of the next nine majors to open up a 39-point half time deficit.
It took just 15 minutes of the third quarter for Richmond and it’s 18 AFL-listed players to continue on their merry way, booting a further four goals to open up a mammoth 61-point lead.
A couple of quick goals courtesy of Declan Keilty – who floated forward on ruckman Ben Griffiths – and Yillber Zijai, saw the Demons gain a little bit of momentum, and with it, the Casey that has graced the field for the majority of 2017 returned to its line breaking best.
Slowly chipping away at the deficit, another major to Keilty and a goal to Bugg saw the margin slashed to 37-points, as the Tigers struggled to slow the play down and get the ball into their prime ball movers’ hands.
With only minutes remaining on the clock, Billy Stretch instilled a faint flicker of hope into his team-mates, kicking a ripping goal out of a stoppage from 45, before coolly slotting a set shot on the three quarter time siren only moments later to reduce the margin to a gettable 26-points.
All-in-all, the Demons had kicked six unanswered goals in stoppage time.
After Bugg converted his third of the match early in the third after taking an uncontested grab only metres from goal, the Tigers managed to stem the flow and defensively stand their ground despite a trio of near misses late in the game weren’t converted.
In the end, the deficit was far too great for a side that could only manage three finals-like quarters.
“I’m frustrated, I’m annoyed, but at the end of the day you get the double chance for a reason but we just weren’t able to capitalise on it,” Casey coach Justin Plapp said.
Despite the result that sees the Demons bundled out of the VFL premiership race, Plapp is proud of his side’s resolve to fight back.
“I’m proud of them,” he said.
“They showed character and they competed.
“But I think the big learning for these boys is it’s got to become unconditional to win finals … it’s got to be four quarters.
“We just haven’t been at our best.”
The season is not over yet for the Demons in the Development League, with the club to play a massive grand final against Williamstown on Sunday.
CASEY DEMONS 3.8 5.8 12.8 15.11(101)
RICHMOND 4.0 12.5 16.10 19.14(128)
GOALS: T. Bugg 3, D. Keilty 2, B. Fritsch 2, B. Stretch 2, Y. Zijai, E. Morris, B. Kennedy, M. Cox, C. Maynard, J. Wagner.
BEST: C. Maynard, B. Kennedy, B. Stretch, J. Trengove, J. Wagner, D. Gordon.
GOALS: T. Stengle 4, S. Lloyd 3, S. Mannagh 2, B. Lennon 2, C. Menadue 2, B. Griffiths 2, S. Bolton 2, S. Morris, J. Short.
BEST: C. Ellis, T. Stengle, A. Miles, S. Hampson, S. Bolton, S. Darley.