Demons scrape into finals

SHARP-SHOOTER: Ricky Symes ended the home and away season as the HDFL leading goalkicker with 59.

SHARP-SHOOTER: Ricky Symes ended the home and away season as the HDFL leading goalkicker with 59.

JUST 2.5 percent proved the difference between White Hills' Heathcote District Football League premiership aspirations still being alive and the season ending for Colbinabbin on Saturday.

The Demons and Grasshoppers both ended the home and away season with 8-8 records, but White Hills held on to fifth position courtesy of its superior percentage of 119.6 to Colbinabbin's 117.1.

While fifth spot and third spot were still up for grabs heading into Saturday's final round, there were no changes to the ladder.

White Hills will head into next Sunday's elimination final against Mount Pleasant on the back of a 38-point loss to Lockington-Bamawm United at Norlec Oval.

The Cats gained some revenge for their round nine loss to the Demons with the 15.20 (110) to 10.12 (72) victory.

White Hills led by seven points at the first break, before the Cats, who were wasteful early, kicked 13 goals to six after quarter-time to end the home and away season with a 13-3 record.

"The boys were good today; our intensity was there and it was really good to see the young blokes stand up," Cats coach Adrian Dohnt said.

"We knew White Hills were going to come up here to have a real crack to stay in the top five, but we wanted to get one back on them from earlier in the year and make sure we go into the finals on the right note."

The Cats' score of 15.20 was their fifth game in a row where they've kicked more behinds than goals, with their tally through that period a combined 61.77.

"Those missed chances are obviously a little bit annoying at the moment, but at least we're getting the scoring opportunities," Dohnt said.

"But we don't want to be kicking ourselves out of games when it gets to finals."

Ryan Jensen bagged six goals for the Cats to be the leading goalkicker on the ground. Also playing well for the reigning premiers, who finished second on the ladder, were Nathan Bacon, Rhys Woodland, Gavin Broad and Marcus Angove.

The Demons - who had been within 17 points at three quarter-time - were best served by Gavin Bowles, Hayden Wright, Jason Curtain and Matt Lehane.

Demons' full-forward Ricky Symes kicked five goals, and in doing so, ensured he became the first White Hills player to win the HDFL goalkicking, ending the home and away season with 59.

The experienced Symes, 34, is the only player in the HDFL this year to kick a goal in every game his team played.

"Ricky has been fantastic as not only a key forward, but as assistant coach and a great clubman. His experience has been invaluable and his preparation to get himself up every week has been first-class," Demons coach Shaun Makepeace said.

"His consistency week-to-week has been outstanding, and hopefully, he's got a few more goals in him not only this year, but next season."

• Colbinabbin kicked its highest score for five years, but it wasn't enough to propel the Grasshoppers into the finals.

The Grasshoppers - needing to make up a game, plus 14 per cent on White Hills to climb from sixth into the top five - defeated Elmore by 84 points, winning 24.13 (157) to 11.7 (73).

Colbinabbin's score was its highest since kicking 24.17 (161) against Huntly in round 10, 2009 - the day star forward Grant Weeks booted a club record 16.

However, Colbinabbin's efforts weren't enough to dislodge White Hills from the top five, with the Grasshoppers finishing sixth on percentage for the second year in a row.

"It's obviously disappointing to miss out by a couple of percent and that hurts because it probably only comes down to four or five goals over the course of the season," Colbinabbin coach Phil Morgan said.

"All we were focused on today was just beating Elmore and if we did things right, the scoreboard would take care of itself. We played well and kicked a high score, but just leaked too many goals, and probably five of their goals were through some bad errors, which hurt us."

The Grasshoppers' attacking flair was shown in their half-time score of 86 already exceeding their average season score of 85.2.

Linton Jacobs' lively form continued for the Grasshoppers, with his haul of six goals giving him 25 in his last four games to end the season.

Jacobs was one of the Grasshoppers' best, along with Thomas Draffin, Chris Guinane, Matt Riordan, who made the most of a rare foray forward to kick three goals, and Tim O'Dwyer.

Morgan has coached the Grasshoppers the past two years and says he's keen to continue in the role next season in what will be the club's centenary year.

"We've got a bit of unfinished business. That's two years in a row we've just missed out, so we're not that far away and I'd like to see it through," Morgan said.

Elmore ended the season winless for the first time since 2001 and with its second-consecutive wooden-spoon.

"We obviously get judged on our wins, but we've got a good club off the field that's in a strong financial position," Elmore coach Stephen Arthur said.

"On the field it hasn't panned out the way we wanted it, but we fought every game out. We've got some good young kids and just need to get a few bigger bodies around them."

Better players for the Bloods on Saturday included Jeff McMurtrie, Phillip Wills, Harley Hayes and Jackson Vrendburg. Lee Solar kicked three goals.

Arthur is yet to make a decision on his coaching future with the Bloods.

• Huntly ended its season with an upset win, defeating the finals-bound Leitchville-Gunbower by 16 points.

The Hawks overcame a 25-point deficit at quarter-time to win 16.14 (110) to 14.10 (94) at Gunbower.

"It was a great way to finish the season. We've been thereabouts most of the season, but haven't been able to finish off those close games," Hawks coach Stacy Fiske said.

"Today we were able to put it all together, which is a credit to the boys. It can be easy for players when you know you're not going to be playing finals to just roll over and go through the motions, but the boys put everything into it today and got the result."

Fiske (two goals) - who is weighing up his coaching future - played an outstanding leader's game to be the Hawks' best player, while youngster Harry Whittle again starred.  

Ryley Dickens and Lachlan O'Toole (five goals) were also among the standouts for the Hawks, who finished the season seventh.

The Bombers - who had led 7.0 to 2.5 at quarter-time - maintained third position and the double chance, despite the upset loss.

Russell Lee, Kade Merlo, Jye Keath and Brad Perry were the best for the Bombers, who head into the finals having won just one of their past four games.

• Minor premier North Bendigo finished its home and away season with a 26-point win over Mount Pleasant at Toolleen - the Bulldogs' 12th win in a row over the Blues.

The Bulldogs won 20.10 (130) to 15.14 (104) in a victory where they raced out of the blocks to lead by 51 points at half-time.

By three quarter-time the Bulldogs' lead had extended to 57 points, before the Blues finished with seven goals to two in the final term.

"We played some of the best footy we have all year early in the game. We used the footy well and kicked straight, which was pleasing," Bulldogs co-coach Rob Bennett said.

"Daniel Sipthorp set the tone for us early, and late in the game when we needed a cool head in the contested situation he was great.

"We didn't have anything to gain from a ladder position, but we wanted to make sure we didn't drop below the standards we've set all year."

Sipthorp, who kicked three goals in the first quarter, was the Bulldogs' best in his return from a two-game suspension. Matthew Sawyer, Shaun Kellow and Ryan Alford also played pivotal roles for the Bulldogs, who now have a week off to prepare for either LBU or Leitchville-Gunbower in the second semi-final.

The defeat - which kept Mount Pleasant fourth on the ladder - was the third in a row to end the home and away season for the Blues, whose best were Koe Ngawati, Jarrod Findlay and James Walsh. Matt Gretgrix kicked six goals - his biggest haul since round four.

• Week one finals:

Qualifying final, Saturday at Toolleen: LBU v Leitchville-Gunbower.

Elimination final, Sunday at Lockington: Mount Pleasant v White Hills.

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