Sunday 27th August saw the Sandy Rovers return to Boss James Reserve for our Preliminary Final fixture against South Melbourne Districts after a closely fought encounter not quite going our way the week before. Our boys were very keen to make amends against South Melbourne, who had defeated the fancied favourites in their Semi Final, Murrumbeena the week before. With the added advantage of being able to play on our home ground in a Final, we were fired-up to earn our place in the Grand Final next week against Bentleigh.
With a focused, yet relaxed warm-up behind us, we started the game brilliantly. With ferocious pressure at the contests and clean ball movement, we managed to keep South Melbourne scoreless in a dominant quarter where we gained a healthy 22-point lead.
With morale high after a good early performance, it was no surprise that the second quarter went much the same as the first despite an early fight-back on South Melbourne’s behalf. We weathered the storm nicely and entered half-time with a respectable 37-point buffer. The only down side to the first half was that we had Aaron Arthur (in only his first game back after 10 weeks out) limp from the ground with pain in his troublesome knee again. He took no further part in the game in the hope of playing next week and our fingers are crossed for his recovery.
Confidence was high heading into the change rooms, as we believed if we followed with another good half of structured footy, we would book ourselves a place in the Grand Final. With the squad focused on what still needed to be done, we built on our lead once again in the 3rd term, extending it to a solid 53 points.
With the game result almost decided, the last quarter’s focus was to ensure we finished strongly, while resting our better players as to avoid any injuries before next week’s big game. With the final quarter slowing down scoring-wise, South Melbourne still fought valiantly right until the final siren.
Unfortunately the plan of ‘conserving’ our players backfired, as Cooper Goulding attempted a tackle with only a few seconds on the clock left and subsequently dislocated his shoulder. It was a horrible outcome for one of our most determined players and we hope that it heals quickly and he is able to run out next week with his teammates.
It would be remiss of me not to mention some stand-out performances in today’s Final, a thoroughly deserved best-on-ground performance was shown from Fergus Murray who blitzed his opponents all day and took some great contested marks to help us establish an early dominance in the game. One of the very best games we have seen him play. Secondly, Tom McKinley whose half-back rebounding play was excellent as he broke down South Melbourne’s attack on many occasions, and lastly, Patrick Kennedy whose run out of our backline was great as he broke the lines and drilled the ball beautifully to his team mates downfield.
With a dominant performance putting the wind on our backs at the right time of the season, our focus now turns to our ‘nemesis’, Bentleigh in the Grand Final next week at McKinnon Reserve. A game I’m sure will be another very close encounter….and hopefully one to remember.