By Sports Editor Russell Bennett
It’s the home and away season finish that can barely be believed.
Reigning premier Inverloch Kongwak entered Round 18 of the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition (WGFNC) a game clear on top of the ladder.
Just a few hours later, the Sea Eagles had finished fourth and face a grand final rematch on home soil against Cora Lynn next Sunday in a mouthwatering elimination final.
Ben Soumilas’ men travelled to Cowes to take on the second-placed Phillip Island on a day that was about so much more for the Phillip Island community than just footy and netball.
Hundreds gathered at the bottom of Thompson Avenue for a White Ribbon Walk to the footy ground in honour of slain local mum Sam Fraser. It was a march for change – one that brought the local residents together as one.
The street was lined with symbolic white ribbons, while at the ground just prior to the first bounce the Sea Eagles and Bulldogs lined up together with a simple message binding them: “I will stand up, speak out and act to prevent men’s violence against women”. The display of solidarity from both clubs in the lead-up to the clash was nothing short of inspiring.
Under ominous skies, it was the in-form home side that shone – capitalising on a 33-point half-time lead to hold a near 50-point advantage heading into the final change. The Bulldogs would ultimately win by six goals, 10.12 (72) to 3.18 (36).
But that was just one of the results that transpired which would ultimately lead to a four-way tie at the top of the ladder at the completion of the home-and-away rounds – a four way tie, that has Inverloch in fourth.
The Bulldogs finished on top, courtesy of the superior percentage they already entered the round with, while Nar Nar Goon and Kooweerup both jumped the Sea Eagles courtesy of booming wins over Dalyston and Kilcunda Bass respectively.
Ultimately, the boys from the Island finished on top with 14 wins and four losses and a percentage of 194.36, ahead of Nar Nar Goon (185.36), Kooweerup (182.99), and Inverloch Kongwak (170.67).
The Panthers were predictably no match at home for the Demons – losing by 107 points, 19.15 (129) to 3.4 (22) – as versatile big man Daniel Calteri booted six goals in a best-on-ground effort on his return from injury for the visitors. He hadn’t played a senior game in more than two months.
But Ben Collins’ side remained in third – the same position it held at the start of the day – courtesy of the Goon’s 127-point pasting of Dalyston, 21.16 (142) to 2.3 (15).
Tom Dovaston and Troy McDermott each booted five majors for the home side, while Brendan Hermann, Jake Smith, and Trent Armour each continued their outstanding form.
In arctic conditions at Beswick Street in Garfield, it was the Cobras who froze out the home side – winning their mini-elimination final to claim the last spot in the finals race, 13.7 (85) to 7.5 (47).
Both sides headed into the game knowing how simple the equation was: win, and stay alive; or lose, and it’s season over.
Hayden Stanton’s young side was gallant throughout the contest and trailed by just 20 points with a quarter left to play, but the Cobras had the answers right when they needed them most. The outside run of Jeremy Monckton, the forward polish of Jai Rout (three goals), the inside ball-winning of a clearly injury-hampered Chris Johnson, the ruck work of Billy Thomas, and defensive nous of skipper Tim Payne were all particularly telling. For the Stars, Tanner Stanton and Jayden Goumas stood strong – as did Tyler McDonald (two goals), who faced the unenviable task of battling Thomas in the middle for much of the day following a nasty ankle injury to Corie Intveen the week prior. With their win, the Cobras clinched their spot in an impressive 13th consecutive finals series.
In the final game of the round, the boys from Korumburra-Bena separated themselves from Bunyip to finish seventh on the ladder courtesy of a 15-point win at Bunyip, 9.5 (59) to a wayward 5.14 (44).
Next week is no less mouth-watering in a stunning crescendo of the second season for the upper reaches of the competition.
The higher-ranked Nar Nar Goon takes on Kooweerup at Kooweerup in the qualifying final on Saturday, while on the Sunday it’s sudden death as the rebuilding Cobras take what they’re sure to deem a free hit against Inverloch Kongwak in the elimination final at Inverloch.
Bring on next weekend – we can’t wait.