PARKSIDE SET UP GRAND FINAL SHOWDOWN
By PADDY GRINDLAY
Throughout 2022, it appeared that the WRFL Division 2 competition may be a two-horse race. With Point Cook Centrals and Parkside going win-for-win through the early stages of the season, many would have predicted a Magpies-Sharks Grand Final from the season’s opening months.
Now, with one game to be played, the predicted outcome has eventuated. Parkside, with a burst of sublime football following the three-quarter-time break, has rocketed into the 2022 WRFL Division 2 Grand Final, defeating North Footscray at Pennell Reserve Braybrook.
They’ll meet the still-undefeated Sharks on Saturday afternoon in Yarraville, on the first weekend of September.
It took ingenuity and brave selection to reach September: with the white-hot Samuel Kater in waiting, Parkside coach Chris Muratore looked to Joseph Jamieson for a solution. Jamieson, a fine reserves player for the Magpies, was yet to play senior footy in 2022.
In a display of plucky coaching – and a player determined to prove his coach right – Jamieson curbed Kater magnificently, despite the Devils’ star punting the first goal of the afternoon. While the influential North Footscray midfielder still got his fair share of the pigskin, his influence was diminished.
Despite the dominance of Jonah Vraca and inspirational skipper Shaun Campbell, the Parkisders were in trouble after wasteful kicking scuppered any chance of making the best of a slight breeze in the first and third quarters. A late Devil goal saw the score tied at 44 apiece – the Magpies reaching that total through five goals and 14 behinds.
Connor Roach and Declan Wakefield, along with the consistent David Allitt, were proving problematic for Parkside, who had every right to feel as if they had wasted their best chance to secure a Grand Final berth. After fighting from third, the Devils’ chances were live: a pulsating final term surely lay ahead.
But North Footscray, with one quarter remaining, chose a poor time to be held goalless as the Parksiders dug deep. No team had kicked more than 20 points in a quarter for the match up until the final term; Parkside sprinted home with a 30-2-point term.
Star Magpie full-forward Jackson Lesko had Devils defender Matt Smith for company, the two re-starting their consistent rivalry in 2022 with a classic preliminary final duel. Lesko, after an early goal, was subdued initially before besting Smith to end with three goals and the victory.
With Jy Lambley relatively quiet, it was skipper Campbell who played deputy to Lesko, kicking two goals and bossing the final term, leading the Magpies to September.
Parkside’s 9.20 (74) to 6.10 (46) victory didn’t give credit to the fight of the Devils, who should not be discouraged after a fine showing in 2022.
For the last team with the opportunity to serve a loss to the Point Cook Centrals, ahead lies a nervous week of anticipation and promise. Stranger things have happened.
The Sharks will start the strongest of favourites, but only in round 18 were pushed all the way by Newport. The Magpies are most certainly a chance to knock them off.