By Sam Young.
Beaufort have stormed their way into the 2017 Central Highlands Grand Final with a comprehensive victory against reigning Premiers Springbank on Saturday in Bungaree.
Rain stayed away for a fine, but overcast day of football with Springbank holding a slight psychological advantage heading into the match with the Tigers defeating Beaufort in round 7 by 15-points.
Beaufort’s Team of the Year half-back flanker Tom Stapleton almost got the Crows off the perfect start with the inside midfielder exploding from the centre clearance to only narrowly miss to the near side. Stapleton again had another opportunity to give his side the early advantage, but it was the Tigers who drew first blood, with superstar Billy Driscoll snapping successfully off their first inside-50 at the five-minute mark to take what would be their only lead for the match. Outgoing Springbank coach, Michael Searle, played loose across half back in the opening term with he and Matthew Tyler taking a couple of great incept marks to control the early proceedings for Springbank. However, at the 17-minute mark Beaufort wingman Rupert Sangster made a line breaking run off half back to end in the safe hands of Jack Duke who was able to complete the overlap with a running goal. Beaufort did continue to waste opportunities in front of the big sticks, but Lachlan Murray was able to take a diving slips catch type mark and convert in the final stages of the term to give them the advantage heading into the first break. Beaufort coach, Rohan Brown was reasonably pleased at his first quarter address. He noted that he knew Springbank were going to come out all guns blazing and told his charges to hold their nerve in the second term.
Brown also praised the work of Levi Cox in defence and his stellar first quarter job on Driscoll, but told his back six that they needed to help out in the cause. The second term was action packed and started with the Tigers again getting off to the perfect start with a long range goal to Matthew Lakey in the opening minute. The sense amongst the ground was the Tigers with the breeze would start to find their top gear, however Tom Stapleton had other ideas. At 5min mark Stapleton bust through another pack of players and this time was able to drill one from 40. 2 minutes later Tim Haase kicked his first for the afternoon with a cute finish deep in the right forward pocket and Jarrod McCorkell was able to get a cheap out the back to make it three goals in four minutes for the Crows. It took another long range bomb from Springbank to break the run, with Tyler George getting the job done from downtown moments later.
However, cracks seemed to appear in Springbank’s game plan with Jayden Orr getting on the end of some good slingshot footy and Stapleton kicking his second off the back of a 50-metre penalty, to give Beaufort a 28-point lead at the major break. The tackling pressure and intensity around the footy from the Crows was unmatched in the first half by Springbank and this trend continued into the second half, with Murray snapping his third at the two-minute mark.
Springbank full-forward, Mitchell Couch finally clunked a pack mark and goaled for the instant response, before the Crows slammed home six unanswered goals to give them a 65-point lead at the final break.
Poor ball movement and skills were the major factor in Springbank falling so far behind as the side looked like they left everything on the track the previous week in their thrilling victory against Gordon. One shining light for the Tigers was defender Samuel Cue, who played his best game of Senior football for the Tigers and was arguably the most influential player on the ground by the games closure. A defeated Michael Searle said during his final address as senior coach of the Springbank Football Club that it was all about finishing the game off and getting some pride after a poor performance. “Let’s earn a bit of respect in the jumper and pride within ourselves.”
The Tigers final term in 2017 didn’t get off the ideal start with Jack Duke running amuck up forward and kicking a couple goals to extend the lead even further. With Springbank staring down the barrel of a 100point loss, at the 16 mark Lakey broke the eight goal run with his second goal of the game to install some pride back into the Tigers jumper.At 25-minute mark, Couch kicked his second but after the siren Tim Haase made it three goals for him and making it a 73-point victory for Beaufort, booking the Crows first grand final appearance since 2002. Beaufort will play Hepburn after they narrowly defeated Buninyong by 15-points on Sunday.
The Crows go into the game with a major injury concern with captain, Michael Foster, racing the clock to be fit after injuring his right hamstring late in the preliminary final victory.
The 2017 Central Highlands Grand Final will be played at Mars Stadium this Saturday afternoon with first bounce scheduled at 2:30pm. .
Beaufort 17.15.117 def. Springbank 6.8.44