Lions fall short at the final hurdle

Pakenham midfielder Rosie Bureta is charged down by Bulls during Sunday''s grand final against Karingal. Picture: COURTESY OF GARY BRADSHAW/FRANKIE PHOTOGRAPHY

Pakenham has overcome many obstacles in 2019 but has stumbled at the final hurdle against a hungry Karingal in the South Eastern Women’s Football (SEWF) Division Three grand final at Shepley Oval on Sunday.

The Lions – in just their second season of competition – were the benchmark team all year, having lost just one game during the home-and-away rounds.

A hard-fought five-point win over the Bulls in the second semi-final saw the Lions progress to the big dance, with Karingal then booking its place with a comfortable victory over Frankston in the preliminary final last week.

The Lions were warned to expect anything in the grand final, and those warnings came to fruition in a hectic start to the contest.

Shepley Oval resembled a war-zone for the Lions early, with centre-half-forward Rosie Davis and captain Rachel Betteridge simultaneously laying on the ground with injuries in the first five minutes of play.

Davis rolled her ankle after falling awkwardly from a marking contest, while Betteridge received an accidental head-butt and was escorted from the field with blood streaming from her nose.

The Lions overcame those early setbacks to play some terrific football in the opening term, with Betteridge returning to kick the first goal of the match before Kerrie-Anne Micallef converted a set shot at goal.

The Lions had their chances to build a big lead in the first quarter but settled for a 2.4.16 to 0.0.0 scoreboard at quarter time.

Karingal laid the platform for its premiership in the second term, having nine scoring shots to none to open up an eight-point lead – 3.6 to 2.4 – at the major break.

Bel McGee was fighting hard for the Lions in the ruck, while wingman Chloe Nagel and defenders Mel Stocker, Bec Domotor, Zoe Loudon and Nat Staunton were forced to fend off a steady stream of supply.

The Lions tried desperately to work their way back into the contest in the second half but were well held by a Bulls’ outfit that should be congratulated for producing their peak performance on the biggest day of the season.

The Bulls cruised to victory in the final term to win by 24 points – 5.12 (42) to 2.6. (18)– and thoroughly deserved their victory with midfielder Kelly Baker earning the best-on-ground medal.

Pakenham coach Tom Bluhm was understandably proud of his team after the match and thanked the players for their efforts, along with the volunteer support staff who worked by his side.

There were two other grand finals played on the day, with St Kilda Sharks defeating Eastern Devils 3.2 (20) to 2.4 (16) in the division one decider, while Tyabb scored a 2.8.20 to 1.1.7 victory over Murrumbeena in division two.