Sunday 2nd September saw the Sandy Rovers travel to McKinnon Reserve, for what would be the final match of the season. Luckily for us, it just so happened to be the Grand Final. For many of the Sandy-Rovers boys, this would be their last game of junior football so morale inside the rooms was high and the players were all itching to get started.
Sadly Aaron had to be a late withdrawal when he was not allowed to attend the game, but we know he was with us in spirit and he wished the boys all the very best
With an extended warmup behind us, we headed out for the last minute pep-talk and traditional National Anthem. Standing opposite was Bentleigh, a team who’d had the better of us on the last 4 occasions and had gone straight through to the Grand Final after narrowly beating us (yet again) 2 weeks earlier. Our boys were extremely keen to redress these losses and after a strong performance shown by the lads in the Prelim match against South Melbourne, it was anybody’s guess as to which team would hold up the flag at the end of the day.
With the toss won by our Sandy-Rovers captain, Marcus, we chose to take the wind advantage this time to the Northern end of the ground and with that the game was underway.
Right from the first bounce the pressure was immense as both teams threw themselves at the ball without caution, trying desperately to gain that first advantage over the opposition. After 5 minutes of play, the scores were still tied until Lachie Fraser unleashed a 50 metre monster to propel us into the lead. This spurred on the Sandy-Rovers for the remainder of the quarter, kicking 3.3 – 21 to Bentleigh’s 1.3 – 9 and taking a small but steady 2 goal lead at the first break.
Spirits were high after a great first quarter and we knew a bigger test would follow in the second as we were now pitted against the wind. This however didn’t seem to faze our boys as we continued our good form of late by maintaining our lead for most of the quarter. If it weren’t for an unfortunate lapse in concentration with only a few seconds to go, we would have kept our 2 goal lead, however Bentleigh were lucky to snag a cheap goal to pull it back to an uncomfortably close 7 points at the main break.
With strong words from the Coaches and the boys determined to correct their earlier mistakes, we set out for the second half. As soon as the siren blew, our boys owned the quarter, applying solid tackling pressure around the contests and clean ball movement – displaying one of their best terms of football this year, just when it counted the most. This in turn extended our lead to a more comfortable 27 points.
With what appeared to be a comfortable lead, it was important to calm the boys down for the last quarter and make sure they stayed focused under the pressure that was certain to come from Bentleigh. With the added incentive of being able to shave their Coaches (Ranga) hair off if they were to win the match, they headed out for one final 20 minute effort……and boy, did they deliver!
Under a huge amount of pressure from Bentleigh, we weathered the storm beautifully, steadily running down the timer by negating the constant attacks from a desperate opposition. Bentleigh did manage to reduce our lead but it was too little and too late. A nice bookend to the game was (as mentioned in the Prelim match) our primary tagger, Cooper Goulding had dislocated his shoulder late in the game and was unable to take part in most of the Grand Final, however with 5 minutes to go he entered the playing field, much to the delight of the crowd. It was a fitting salute to a fella who contributed enormously to the team’s success over the season. As the clocked ticked down with a minute to go, we held a 13-point lead and that’s the margin the game would finish on as we rushed the field to join our U17 division 2 Premiers on the siren. Jubilation would be an understatement for the scenes that ensued as we made our way to the medal and Premiership cup presentation.
With each player receiving their own medallion and the Best-On-Ground medal being awarded to Cam Morris for what was a truly outstanding game, the boys were aching to belt out the songs. Posing for the team photos done, we headed into the rooms where my favourite renditions of both the Hampton Rovers and Sandringham Zebras songs were sung at the top of our lungs.
There are far too many highlights and contributions to list here so we’ll keep that for the Presentation Night but just quietly, I think every footy player dreams of a Premiership and perhaps even the ‘underdog’, come-from-behind win. Well, what do you know – turning the tables on the benchmark team that had thwarted us all season – it was a very sweet victory indeed!
So, with the season now concluded in the best way possible, we now look forward to the Presentation night this coming Friday, where the proper celebration of our wonderful year will commence.
Congratulations to each and every Sandy-Rovers player for an outstanding season.