NAVARRE caused 2013’s biggest upset in central Victorian football, nailing a four-point win over previously unbeaten Carisbrook in Saturday’s Maryborough-Castlemaine District League first preliminary final.
In front of a big Princes Park crowd, the Grasshoppers ended the Redbacks’ 24-game winning streak - which included all 17 games they’d played this year - in a pulsating contest.
Final scores: Navarre 13.12 (90) d Carisbrook 13.8 (86).
Scores were level four times in the third quarter. With skipper Sam Robertson and forward Ben Scott supreme in the inside 50 marking contests, Navarre had fought back from a 21-point quarter-time deficit to grab the lead by one point at the last change.
Grasshoppers’ run-with player Brian Lovison shut down Carisbrook’s 2013 Berry Powell Medallist Matt Bilton. The Redbacks’ playmaker managed just one goal, and that was following a third quarter 50m penalty.
Early in the big game Carisbrook’s key forward Nathan Wright was the difference between the teams. He’d nailed three of his four goals by quarter-time, consistently leading Jayden Fowkes to the contest and cleverly using the breeze which favoured the town end.
Eventually Navarre coach Daniel Parkin moved Brent Flood onto Wright and from the second term onwards Flood subdued the Redbacks’ forward.
With Wright not as dominant, Carisbrook relied on Jackson Bowen and Nick Wright. Navarre’s replies came from Josh Fowkes, Scott, Josh Driscoll and Zane Bigmore, the latter courtesy of a 50m penalty.
The third term was a cracker. The clubs went goal-for-goal following two early Navarre majors which squared the ledger.
Scott drilled three of his five goals in the third, along with one from skipper Robertson who’d been moved to full-forward.
But the Redbacks stayed in touch with goals to Jay Anderson, Marcus Emmett, Patrick Jenes and Bilton.
Each time one club nailed a goal, the other replied within a couple of minutes.
Robertson book-ended Navarre’s final term goals after majors mid-term to Carisbrook co-coach Luke Treacy and Jenes as the Grasshoppers hung on to win by less than a kick.
With the Redbacks in attack Robertson hauled in the match-saving defensive mark for Navarre with a big grab in the scoreboard pocket. There was less than a minute left on the clock.
Statistics – Inside 50: Navarre 48, Carisbrook 42. Centre clearances: Navarre 15, Carisbrook 12. Free kicks: Carisbrook 32, Navarre 25. Turnovers: Navarre 45, Carisbrook 44.
With the Grasshoppers into their third, consecutive grand final coach Daniel Parkin said all week leading up to the game there had been “a great vibe” around the club.
“We knew Carisbrook are a quality side, but also that they are beatable. We also knew if we turned up and played one good quarter, times four, we’d be in with a real chance,” he said.
When the Grasshoppers hit the lead deep in the final quarter, Parkin said he’d instructed his players to flood the backline.
“And with (Bryce) Tickner, depending on match-ups, we would move him from the wing to the back half to shut someone down,” Parkin said.
Redbacks’ co-coach Treacy said the first half scoring chances which had been let go proved extremely costly.
“If we’d taken those scoring shots we might have had a big enough buffer for later on.
“You put yourselves in a position to play a grand final and we just didn’t do it (play consistently) for long enough today to get there,” he said.
When Nathan Wright came off with an injury, Treacy said structuring up in the forward half was made harder but full credit had to be paid to Navarre for their win.