A STUNNING last quarter onslaught propelled Strathfieldsaye to the BFNL premiership against Eaglehawk on Saturday.
The odds were stacked against the Storm at three quarter-time when they trailed by 20 points and had kicked just four goals against the red-hot Hawks that had won 14 games in a row.
But what unfolded over the final 31 minutes was the most memorable quarter of football the Storm have played in their nine-year history as they went on a spree of nine unanswered goals.
From 20 points down at three quarter-time, by the final siren the Storm were 32 points in front as they won 13.10 (88) to 7.14 (56) in front of a grand final crowd that paid a gate of $71,500.
One of the questions heading into the game was what impact would the Storm having played three tough lead-in finals compared to the Hawks only playing one have on one of the hottest BFNL grand final days where the temperature topped 31.8 degrees during the first quarter?
The question was emphatically answered that it was the match hardness of the Storm that held up far better over the four quarters as they kicked nine goals in their barnstorming last term.
According to Bendigo Advertiser records that date back to 1950, the Storm are the first team through that 68-year period to kick nine goals in the last quarter of a grand final.
Not surprisingly given the year he has had, Storm forward Lachlan Sharp played a leading role in Strathfieldsaye’s last term blitz.
The Hawks’ Lachlan Atherton had battled manfully to restrict Sharp to just one goal over the first three quarters.
However, as the Strathfieldsaye midfield gained control in the last quarter and the ball was constantly sent into the Storm forward 50 at the city end – which was favoured by a significant breeze all day – Sharp exploded with five goals.
The first was Sharp at his best as he picked up a Trent Donnan kick on the half volley, wheeled around onto his trusty left foot and from 35m his kicked bounced through.
With Josh Formosa and Nalder medallist Kallen Geary having also kicked goals earlier in the quarter, Sharp’s snap brought the Storm within three points at the eight-minute mark.
When Sharp added his second of the quarter three minutes later after he got a favourable bounce and dribbled the ball through the Storm were in front.
At that stage after having kicked just four goals for the first three quarters, the Storm had added four in the space of only 11 minutes.
And there was no slowing them down as another five goals were to follow over the last 20 minutes as the Storm finished the game with the momentum of a runaway train, while the weary Hawks had ground to a halt.
Sharp added three more goals in the last 20 minutes along with singles to Brad Stringer – who finished with three for the match – and inclusion Jack Neylon.
With his five last-term goals contributing to a match haul of six that earned him the AFL Victoria Country Medal, Sharp ends a remarkable comeback season from a knee reconstruction with 142 goals – eighth on the all-time BFNL list.
On the back of a finals series that had been hampered by inaccuracy – the Storm kicked 9.19 in the qualifying final and 10.17 in the preliminary final, both against Golden Square – when they needed it the most they were on target, kicking 9.1 in their last quarter surge.
Down the other end the Hawks could muster just 0.3, with their last goal of the game coming 17 minutes into the third quarter.
In the end it was Eaglehawk that rued poor conversion, with the Hawks never having more goals than behinds on the board at any stage of the game.
In a match that lasted 120 minutes, the Hawks spent 97 minutes in front and had looked poised to crack the game open during the third quarter.
In what had been a scrap of a contest as the wind played havoc with the skills of both sides, halfway through the third quarter with the Hawks leading 4.9 to 4.8 the game was waiting for one side to take it by the scruff of the neck.
And it was the Hawks who made their move with a four-minute burst in which Matt Gretgrix (two) and teenager Joel Mullen kicked three quick goals.
Gretgrix’s second goal during the Hawks’ purple patch was a 30m snap and was his fourth, but it would be Eaglehawk’s last of the game.
The Hawks had a chance after the three quarter-time siren to kick their eighth goal and lead by 25 points at the final change when Matt Filo had a shot deep in the pocket, but it missed.
There were no surprises in Sharp winning one of the best-on-ground medals, while team-mate Kallen Geary was a worthy winner of the Nalder Medal.
Geary was superb with his drive off the half-back flank and then went forward in the last quarter and had an impact in not only kicking a goal, but also setting up Stringer’s goal as well.
The polished Jamieson Sheahan gave the Storm plenty of rebound out of the back half to be one of his side’s best, along with midfielder Formosa, who was particularly busy in the second half.
Fergus Payne and on-baller Sam Heavyside were also named among the best for the Storm.
Better players for the Hawks included coach Josh Bowe and Jesse Collins through the midfield, captain Tim Hill was stoic in defence along with Tyler Miles and Gretgrix with his four goals made his mark.
2.2, 4.6, 4.9, 13.10 (88)
2.3, 4.7, 7.11, 7.14 (56)
Goals – Strathfieldsaye: L. Sharp 6, B. Stringer 3, J. Formosa, K. Geary, J. Neylon, M. Harvey. Eaglehawk: M. Gretgrix 4, J. Mullen, R. Saunders, G. Hommelhoff.
Best – Strathfieldsaye: M. Gretgrix 4, J. Mullen, R. Saunders, G. Hommelhoff. Eaglehawk: S. Hann, J. Bowe, L. Atherton, J. Collins, T. Miles, M. Gretgrix.