NEWBRIDGE has secured its first Loddon Valley league double chance since 2012 after outlasting Bears Lagoon-Serpentine in the final round on Saturday.
In a clash where the winner would finish third, the Maroons won a tough slog at home by 16 points, prevailing 8.15 (63) to 7.5 (47).
The loss left the Bears with an anxious 24-hour wait as their finals hopes hinged on Pyramid Hill losing to Calivil United in Sunday’s Worksafe Game of the Month.
The Bears held on to their position in the top five after the Demons defeated the Bulldogs, with last year’s winless wooden-spooner to now take on Mitiamo in next Sunday’s elimination final.
Newbridge’s victory over the Bears propelled it into next Saturday’s qualifying final against Bridgewater – a team the Maroons have already beaten twice this season – at Mitiamo.
“It’s fantastic for the players to get the double chance… they’ve worked hard, but we know the job is still far from done,” Newbridge coach Matt Dillon said.
“It was a hard game to watch today; it was scrappy and we wasted a lot of the footy.
“We had a lot of play in our forward line and missed a lot of chances, but we were able to grind out what was obviously a really important win. In terms of being tight and hard, the game had that bit of finals atmosphere to it.”
Tyler Romeril continued his outstanding season in the ruck to be the best for the Maroons, who also had consistent midfielder Jordan Gilboy and Alex Farrow as standouts.
Bears Lagoon-Serpentine’s James Rippingale with three was the game’s leading goalkicker.
Veteran Nathan McNally and Josh Walsh, who has finished the home and away season in fine form, were the best players for the Bears, who had led by four points at half-time.
Bears coach Greg Gadsden described Sunday’s Calivil United-Pyramid Hill result that kept his side in the top five as “good news”.
“There’s no question it’s a good reward for the boys to have a crack at playing in a finals series,” Gadsden said on Sunday night.
“Since yesterday’s result, it has been out of our control, so it was just a matter of waiting to see what today’s result was… if we were lucky enough to get through, that’s great, if not then we probably would have rued some games we should have won.
“We’ve got a chance again next week and it’s going to be a great experience for our young list.”
• The only game in the final round that didn’t have any ramifications on the top five was the clash between Bridgewater and Marong.
Yet the result was one of the biggest talking points after the Panthers pulled off a major upset as they defeated the Mean Machine by 44 points at Bridgewater.
The fired-up Panthers won 15.12 (102) to 8.10 (58) in what was the first time Bridgewater has had a score of more than 100 kicked against it in its past 47 games.
The result was a 145-point turnaround on round nine when Bridgewater won by 101 points, with the Panthers’ victory set up by a barnstorming first quarter.
The Panthers produced their highest-scoring quarter for the season in the opening term to go into the first break leading by 52 points, 9.5 to 1.1.
“The boys came to play again and it probably meant a bit more to us than it did to Bridgewater,” Marong coach Damien Lock said.
“We came with a plan and to the boys’ credit, they executed it well enough to get a fairly comprehensive win.”
The win was Marong’s first over Bridgewater since the Panthers beat the Mean Machine by 12 points in the 2009 elimination final.
In between victories, the Panthers lost 15 in a row against the Mean Machine by an average of 78 points.
The victory featured a five-goal haul from Jarrod Fitzpatrick to finish a superb first season at the club and strong performances from Bryce Franzini, who gave the Panthers plenty of midfield grunt, fellow on-baller Zach Turnbull and Ricky Dudley.
Having at one stage been languishing at 1-9, the Panthers ended the season on a roll with four wins in their last six games, three of which were against finalists – top three teams Bridgewater and Newbridge, plus Mitiamo.
After two years at the helm in which he had a 13-20 record, Lock has stood down as Marong coach.
Bridgewater – which couldn’t move from second position going into Saturday – will begin its finals campaign on the back of two losses in a row, with Saturday’s shock result against the Panthers coming on the back of a 20-point loss to Newbridge in its previous game.
“It was a disappointing day, especially to be down nine goals to one at quarter-time,” Bridgewater coach Marc Lindsay said.
“Over the last three quarters we were more competitive around the ball and it was a lot more even on the scoreboard, but overall, it wasn’t a good enough effort.
“Marong wanted to win the game more than we did and that was a shame.”
The best for the Mean Machine featured defender Xavier Henderson, whose second half of the season has been superb, youngster Lachlan Mangan and the tenacious Kyle Chant.
The Mean Machine expect to regain Lindsay, reigning Harding medallist Zeb Broadbent, veteran Rick Ladson, Harry Symons and Liam Jacques for the qualifying final against the Maroons.
• Mitiamo made sure of its finals berth with a 91-point win over Maiden Gully YCW Eagles.
The Superoos burst out of the blocks superbly, producing the Loddon Valley’s second highest scoring quarter of the season to lead 10.4 to 0.1 at quarter-time and set up their 19.12 (126) to 5.5 (35) win at Marist College.
Only Pyramid Hill’s 10.6 opening term in round eight – also against the Eagles – has been better than the Superoos’ first quarter on Saturday.
“We spoke before the game about the importance of starting well and we were able to win the toss and kick with the breeze,” Mitiamo coach Justin Maddern said.
“We got the start we wanted and were able to continue for the rest of the game.”
By winning on Saturday and the Bears being beaten, it ensured Mitiamo knew immediately after the game – rather than having to wait until Sunday afternoon – that its season would be extending into the finals.
“We knew as soon as we walked into the rooms that we’d be playing finals, so it was good to be able to tell all the players then and there to get ready for training on Monday night and the week ahead,” said Maddern, who bagged five goals.
Better players for the Superoos included Ben Hughes, who kicked three goals playing a mix of midfield and forward, Isaac Mathewson in defence and captain Dylan Clohesy on a wing.
With the 91-point defeat, the newly-formed Maiden Gully YCW Eagles ends its debut season eighth on the ladder with a 3-13 record.
The Eagles named Jordan Crisp and Luke Gray (two goals) their best.
• For the first time since 2003, Pyramid Hill will miss the finals after coming up 21 points short in its season-on-the-line game against Calivil United on Sunday.
The Demons led at every break in winning 11.7 (73) to 8.4 (52) at Calivil to put the finishing touch on a 15-1 home and away season, while consigning the Bulldogs to sixth with an 8-8 record.
Key forward Bryce Curnow slotted four goals for the Demons to top the league goalkicking with 76 – the first Calivil United player since Phil Hetherington in 2005 with 103 to do so.
While the Demons have finals to look forward to, it’s a rare early finish to the season for the Bulldogs, who had been on the AFLCV region’s longest unbroken streak of current finals appearances of 13 in a row.
“Today sums up our season… we were competitive, but just didn’t use the well enough or make the most of our opportunities,” Bulldogs co-coach Brad Fawcett said.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been a bit off the pace this year, so we’ll have to look at a few things and aim to work to come back bigger and better next year.”