VIKINGS CONQUER LIONS, SPOTTY WIN THRILLER
By NICK BOYLAN
One RAMS Division 1 side has booked their ticket to the 2019 Grand Final, with Altona defeating reigning premiers Deer Park by 19 points – the Lions’ first finals loss since 2013.
Kicking with a favourable breeze, Altona started with their blistering run-and-carry, making a statement with multiple thrusts inside 50. Omar Abou-Zeid was lively in the first term, kicking both of the Vikings’ goals for the quarter and proving to be dangerous around the ball.
Altona’s inaccuracy kept Deer Park in the game, as the Lions began to get on top around the ground, only trailing by five points at the first change.
While the conditions worsened in the second term, the intensity level rose in the contest, providing football worth of the finals. While Altona’s run continued to be a feature, Deer Park found a way to kick timely goals against the run of play, and never let the Vikings get too far ahead.
The Lions begun to get on top in the contest, but were wasteful with their delivery going inside 50, giving the Vikings defenders too many opportunities to mark and rebound forward.
Deer Park were also missing RAMS Division 1 goal kicking leader Jase Perkins through a suspension that will carry through for the rest of 2019. Unable to haver Perkins anchoring the forward line proved to be a large hole for the Lions, that showed as the contest wore on.
Despite Sean Tighe’s dominance in the ruck, Aaron Britten and Deer Park were able only trail by a single point at half-time. With animosity between the two sides extending from the field to the stands, Avalon Airport Oval was set for an exciting second-half clash.
Instead of the reigning premiers undertaking a familiar third-quarter rampage, it was Tighe and Steve Kennedy controlling the midfield for Altona. Being able to set up run through Daniel O’Leary and Ethan Taylor, the Vikings were able to kick six goals to one in the third quarter.
Heading into the last quarter trailing by 33 points, Deer Park had to throw caution to the wind in pursuit of victory. They were kept in the game, as Altona couldn’t land the killer blow, only kicking two behinds in the last term.
While Britten and Max Bruin continued to drive Deer Park back into the game, trying to get Jack Redpath involved, the Lions’ disposal ultimately cost them a chance at victory.
With this defeat, Deer Park have one more chance in a Preliminary Final next week where they take on Spotswood.
For Altona, they can enjoy a week’s break and begin their preparations to secure their first premiership since 2012.
In Sunday’s Division 1 Semi Final, wild conditions cast a large shadow on this game, but did not stop Spotswood advancing to a Preliminary Final, defeating Werribee Districts by four points in a thrilling finish.
Strong winds and rain meant that this final was always going to be a war of attrition, as both teams went goalless in the first term.
In the second term, Murray Boyd and the Woodsmen midfielders had started to click, getting some scoring going. Keeping Districts to four behinds compared to their three goals, Spotswood held a slim 10-point lead at the half time break.
In the third term, Werribee Districts started to get on top, having six scoring shots to Spotswood’s two, but could only convert one for their first major of the match. Jordan Patty and Nayef Hamad continued to work tirelessly in the soggy conditions, meaning that Districts trailed by a mere six points at three quarter time.
In the last quarter, the game went up a notch as both teams fought desperately to get over the line. After a Bailey Siwek major for Districts, Toby Kopa and Dylan Callard both slotted majors to maintain a 13-point lead.
Werribee Districts would not die wondering as goals Andrew Panayi and Judah Dundon closed the Spotswood lead to a single margin.
With a finish befitting of a finals encounter, Panayi slotted a second major to give Districts their first lead since quarter time. As the clock ticked into time on, a Spotswood team minus David Iaccarino, were able to find Brandon Walshe to slot what was to be a match-winning goal.
Werribee Districts fought until the siren but Chris Gillham’s side unfortunately fell short of progressing in this 2019 finals series, after a terrific season. An afternoon of 5.15 will be tough to swallow, but expect Districts to bounce back in 2020 and build off what has been a strong year.
Spotswood have another must-see clash with Deer Park, as they look to atone for their qualifying final loss to the Lions, and set up a Grand Final showdown with Altona.
Picture: CODY BENCH PHOTOGRAPHY