Sunday’s Grand Final was a fitting conclusion for a fantastic group of young men who came together only days before round 1, given it was against long-time rival Mordi Brae only made the day more special.
The game took place at Highett Reserve and began during a passing shower. We fielded 29 players on the day so a bench of 11 made it a very busy and somewhat emotional place. The first quarter was a real arm wrestle. Whilst Sandy Rovers did most the attacking we failed to hit the scoreboard and for the first 10 minutes the game sat nil all. Mordi Brae then scored two majors in quick succession, our first goal coming in the last 30 seconds.
Trailing by 5 points at the start of the second, Sandy Rovers threw everything they had at Mordi Brae, hoping to make use of a two-goal breeze. The first five minutes was another arm wrestle however a run of electric football saw us kick five goals in 10 minutes and a sixth in the last few minutes. This charge saw us lead by 33 points at the main change.
We knew Mordi Brae would come hard after the break and that they did, kicking four for the quarter against our one. Our boys were giving their all but you could see the fatigue kicking in. The three-quarter time margin was only 15 points and the Mordi Brae huddle was vocal; this game definitely wasn’t over.
The final quarter became an arm wrestle with our defence holding hard against numerous attacks. Mid quarter a weather change came through with a shower and an unfortunate wind shift that favoured Mordi Brae. With five minutes to go Mordi Brae had narrowed the margin to 6 points, they were running harder and had the breeze. But, as they have all year, our boys rose to the challenge and hit back hard. We locked the ball in our forward half for about four minutes before the sealer was kicked by Ned Bellmaine after a great pack mark.
The final siren saw us celebrate a 10-point victory. For many this was their first Grand Final win and on the siren, we saw emotions of excitement, relief and exhaustion. All players contributed to the win but it was fitting the Ben Pryor was judged best afield by the umpires; reward for a great game and terrific season.
The game was a terrific exhibition of U17 Football with all boys from both teams to be congratulated with the spirit with which they played; it was Grand Final tough, but it was fair and without incident.
Our thanks go to both the Hampton Rovers and East Sandringham Zebras for their support throughout the season. It was fantastic the way both Clubs got behind this team and the result is testimony to what good collaboration can achieve.