MATCH REPORTS: PRELIMINARY FINALS
Written by Jon Anderson
There are moments in games that define them, others that will stay with us when we are ultimately sitting in a rocking chair, mouth slightly ajar, warm rug over aching bones. And many of those moments took place at Box Hill City Oval on Saturday, September 8, 2018, when a group of 22 young men from various backgrounds gelled together to produce our proudest moment since Old Geelong Football Club began as Old Geelong Grammarians in Fairfield 64 years ago.
To paint the picture we had finished as clearly the third best team in C Grade, so anything less than a Preliminary final would have been deemed a failure, but our opponents Williamstown CYMS had lost just two games for the season and boasted a percentage of 189%, 60% clear of us, indicating some sort of gap between the sides as highlighted by those who write for the VAFA where a distinct lack of respect was displayed.
What they didn't know is how this group had come together as a unit, how prepared they were to give the ball off by hand, dive into a pack and knock the ball out (Jez Nettlefold, Ed Keach) or lay a bone-crunching tackle to let Willy know nothing was going to come easily.
If you want an example of the latter, watch late in the last quarter when Will Sloss launches himself like a scud missile on the far wing to absolutely pulverise an opponent in a legal manner. This came from someone who had run his guts out but still found something deep within himself. That type of action becomes infectious within a group, although there are no surprises it came from Slossy.
Twenty minutes earlier he had been an integral part of another massive moment when Jack Anderson won a 50/50 ball in the middle and handballed it to Tom Balcombe (who was clearly best afield in the first half) for "Balcs' to find Sammy Anderson. He instinctively went by his left hand to Slossy who booted it long and extremely effectively to Jonny Read, who had found space after his man had pressed downfield. Fifteen metres out on a 45 degree angle may sound easy to some, but it's actually one hell of a kick given the circumstances. Mind you the ever-smiling Jonny always looks calm on the outside and so it proved as he put us seven points up.
But back to the beginning, where things had begun badly after a Willy goal within a minute had been followed by Joe Couch tearing his hamstring and going down for the day. Joe faces a knee operation soon which hopefully will allow his body the opportunity to show us what he's got.
We were under siege in that first quarter but stayed in the game, thanks partly to our opponents failing to convert, but also to a defence where our best-on-ground from the first final in Will Horsfall was doing a serious job on their dangerous forward in Nick Ebinger, and Jacob Jess was setting the platform for his finest game in the hoops . We were also getting plenty of it in the midfield where Balcs, Jezz and Josh Hutley began really well.
From there it was a matter of remaining in touch in what became an arm wrestle. There were moments in the second quarter, one where Sammy typically burst onto a front and square and blasted towards goal where his buddy Christian (please call me Mr September) Hatzis cleverly shepherded the bouncing ball through.
We were winning the ruck where Jack Sheridan just kept jumping and presenting as he has done since a recruiting coup lured him from Uni Blues. He might be just 21 but Jack's maturity stamps him as a future leader of the club. Another in the same bracket is Matt Kirkwood, who kept trying to break lines and who used it well when kicking out.
Sadly we lost a heart and soul player in Colby O'Brien, before half-time with another hammy, and it hurt because the old bloke was really working into the game. You can't buy his experience, the good news being he will be around the club next year in an exciting new guise which our president will announce at an appropriate time.
The third quarter was more of the same with Willy threatening to break the game open but being met with a resolve that sums up this group. And a key factor after half-time was Hugo Perry at centre half back. Eighty games at A Grade level with Old Scotch came to the fore as he dominated the second half.
Matt Bird kicked a vital goal as he has often done this year, a young man who has fitted in so well in the OGs environment. But the same could be said for our Adelaide Revelation in the ever-smiling Don Nicolson, someone who knew nobody but whose talents were identified by coach Nick Bourke in the Reserves at St Mary's in Round Two despite atrocious conditions. At three-quarter time we were a goal askew and that's when we were about to find out what these men were made of.
Or "AND SO IT HAS COME TO THIS" as a bearded chap named Ned Kelly once uttered, not long before an appointment with a rope. Our boys' appointment was with an opponent that had to be getting extremely nervous given a straight sets exit could only be viewed as a disaster. In fairness to them they played the game in the right spirit.
The last quarter was when Mr September in CJ Hatzis imposed himself on the game as only he can, a huge hanger prompted by a bellowing "COME ON OGGERS". Christian then had four further shots for goal in the term, hitting the post once and scoring two further points but when you win by one point, they become gold. He ended with 1.7 after 2.7 in the first final, but as someone who once witnessed him booting 9.1 in a VAFA U19 Grand Final, the goals will come.
After Jon Read's goal three minutes later Willy came back into the game and that's when players such as Ed Keach and Liam Maiden were so important. Liam's run was vital through the middle of the ground while our shortest player in Keachy just kept presenting. The image of him standing under a couple of high balls, his arms stretched to the sky despite the obvious threat of being crunched, will remain with all of us.
Defence became vital, with Pez continuing to plug the holes while the everpopular Sandon James produced two massive plays when the game was on the line. There are two players that haven't been mentioned to date, their names being John Simson and Scott Dixon. Simmo's four quarters would have ensured him Norm Smith Medal status, but I would ask when hasn't he been in the OGs best six this year? He has produced a season to stake a claim as clearly the finest player in C Grade with a brave, unselfish and clever brand of football. We are lucky to have him.
And then there is Scotty Dixon, a serious talent who ideally would play as a third tall on the forward line who pushes into the midfield, rather than a centre half forward who pinch hits in the ruck. It's no co-incidence that our last five wins on end have coincided with his availability.
With a minute to go, and the scores level, a Willy player somehow missed a straightforward mark, allowing everywhere man Jacob Jess to hit Christian Hatzis with a perfect pass. Mr Laconic played on, and while many would have gone long towards goal, he spotted Scotty Dixon and speared a left foot pass towards him. Scott gathered and kicked towards a vacant goal square, the ball bouncing through for a point which put us in front with thirty seconds left.
When the siren sounded, with the ball in Matt Bird's hand sixty metres from goal, all hell broke loose. If you require an example of what it means, listen to the audio of our coach Nick Bourke who can be heard screaming in the background. For many it was tears, for others pure unbridled joy.
The scenes in the rooms were what we hope heaven must look like, before Nick congratulated those off the field who have down so much to ensure this success came. Then he said the players have the chance to achieve something very special for themselves in the form of a Premiership Cup. Bring on Fitzroy this Saturday at Trevor Barker Oval, and while the Roys may be warm favourites, that suits our group perfectly
Written by Rupert Kemp
A perfect day for football greeted the men's Reserves as they rolled into Box Hill. The feeling all week had been one of redemption after last week’s loss and the boys knew that Marcellin would take it right up to us after a big win the week before and having the luxury of having no Senior side in the finals.
After looking stagnant last week, the first quarter could not have been more polar opposite. The OGs ran in wave after wave right across the ground, linking up with scintillating chains of handballs and getting it in quickly to our isolated forwards, who were either marking them or bringing them front and centre for our smalls (one Andy “Pressure King” Leahy crumb running at flat chat and finishing with a goal sticks in the mind).
Marcellin settled in the second and third quarters and started to claw themselves back into the game. Our run dropped off and we started to look stagnant off the backline once again. Key early injuries to Jason “Bason Jarry” Barry and Ed “Ogs Royalty” Manton started to take their toll on our legs as our rotations were reduced significantly in the hot weather. By three-quarter time our early lead had turned into a two point deficit and some ill-informed spectators were wondering if the OGs had anything left to give.
Cue the final term.
The run came back. Ed “I will never not wheel around onto my left” Long and Tony “Road Runner” Tripodi were getting the ball off the backline and through the middle and running. Jono “Goalkicker turned inside bull” Thomson was the linkman through the middle. Harry “Punch worth 2 kicks” Sleigh and Angus “Finals are easy” Wylie were dominating aerially down back and the key pillars up front in Charlie “Did anyone not see my snap” Hawkins, Joe “Hands of Velcro” Kemp and Josh “Hoofdaddy” Hoevenaars were real presences.
Ten minutes to go and the OGs were looking on top with a three goal lead. And then we stopped. This will be a crucial experience for us as we go into the Grand Final this week…finals are not won until the final siren sounds. Marcellin went bang-bang-bang with three goals in a row and we suddenly stopped taking our chances up forward. Luckily, the steady head of Rupert “McGovern” de Crespigny went back and took a couple of crucial intercept marks to soak up the rest of the clock before the game finished and saw the OGs men's Reserves progress through to the big dance after one of the most courageous Reserves performances this writer has ever seen.