FALCONS FLY INTO FINALS
By PADDY GRINDLAY
A climactic final Saturday on the WRFL Division 2 season has left Newport stranded outside of the top four, with Wyndhamvale motoring into finals football by the skin of its teeth.
Newport had a monumentally tough assignment in the final fortnight of regular competition, needing to win both of their fixtures against Parkside and the Point Cook Centrals to hold off Wyndhamvale. While Newport saluted against Parkside last week, they couldn’t repeat the dosage in Round 18, falling by just four points to the Sharks.
Newport leapt from the blocks in the first half, with the enormity of the contest obvious to every player. After leaping to a 20-point advantage at the long break with Youssef El Hawli and Omar Abou-Zeid (two goals) firing, Newport were first-hand witnesses of the might of the Sharks’ twin forward talents – Daniel Strnak and Aaron Williams.
The pair punted four goals apiece, while Kwar Ater ran riot for the Sharks, who were desperate to secure a final victory to complete a perfect home-and-away campaign.
Grimly holding a one-point lead at the final break, Newport never gave in but simply came up against the Division’s clear premiership fancy. Even so, just one straight kick would have sent Newport into the finals.
The final siren brought the end to an incredible, agonising game, the Sharks completing a comeback 14.7. (91) to 13.9. (87) victory and enshrining a dominant 2022 season.
The loss would have been irrelevant to Newport, though, if the Falcons had fallen to Albion in their clash at JR Parsons Reserve – and indeed, it looked to be that way, as the Cats, with no chance of making finals, stormed back from a 22-point quarter time deficit to lead by a point at the final change.
But six goals to two in the last term led the Falcons to a season-saving 15.15. (105) to 12.12. (84) win, punting Newport out of the top four and locking in a meeting with North Footscray in the semi-final.
Mathiang Kak has dominated the forward line for the Falcons all year and did so again, punting six of the most important goals in the Falcons’ season – enough to move him into eighth in the competition’s leading goalscorer tally.
Mackenzie Parker was outstanding for the Falcons while Kyle Bistisi continued his fine form.
Ben Doll’s single goal was enough to secure him the league’s leading home-and-away goalscorer title, nudging Shark Aaron Williams by a single goal to finish on 60 majors.
With two mighty clashes, one could be forgiven for thinking that finals had started early – and indeed, they may as well have, with both winners on to semi-finals, and the losers relegated to fifth (Newport) and sixth (Albion).
Elsewhere, in the second-versus-third match-up between North Footscray and Parkside, the Magpies showed the Devils just why they deserve the double-chance, leading at every change to run away 12.15. (87) to 8.10. (58) victors.
Jackson Barrett and Bradley Graham were far too good for the Devils in their tune-up, while Luke Pupillo, Jackson Lesko, Brent Kelly and Benjamin Ashman all kicked a pair of majors.
Charles Bettiol and David Allitt were the Devils’ best.
While the Sharks confirmed a season without a loss, West Footscray recorded the exact opposite, yet infinitely grimmer milestone by falling to Glen Orden, thus going the entire season without a victory.
The Roosters were within two kicks at quarter time after an entertaining opener, but soon lost control of key Hawks Daniel Rosenzweig (seven goals) and Christopher Bensen (six), eventually falling 7.3. (45) to 28.8. (176).
The Hawks were able to end a frustrating 2022 on a high, notching their fifth win, while the Roosters notched their eleventh defeat of over 100 points.
Oscar Day and Kane Liossis were two West Footscray players who could hold their heads high.
Next week, the ladder-leading Point Cook Centrals will play second-placed Parkside for a grand final berth, the loser to play the winner of the semi-final between third-placed North Footscray and fourth-placed Wyndhamvale.