Home Sport CHFL Preview – Preliminary Finals 2017

CHFL Preview – Preliminary Finals 2017

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Take that Tiger Jessey Galea tries to mark in front of goal but Adam Toohey had other ideas as he thumps the ball away.

Two outstanding semi-finals last weekend has built enormous momentum in the race to the first ever grand final on Mars Stadium. Buninyong had to fight hard to get themselves back ahead of a very dogged and at times brilliant Daylesford and then Springbank kicked three goals in the final three minutes to get a six-point margin over Gordon.

The impact of these two classic finishes provided an atmosphere at both Learmonth and Daylesford which was worth experiencing. Celebrating supporters were CHFL Preview – Preliminary Finals

Two outstanding semi-finals last weekend has built enormous momentum in the race to the first ever grand final on Mars Stadium. Buninyong had to fight hard to get themselves back ahead of a very dogged and at times brilliant Daylesford and then Springbank kicked three goals in the final three minutes to get a six-point margin over Gordon.

The impact of these two classic finishes provided an atmosphere at both Learmonth and Daylesford which was worth experiencing. Five-goal lead late in the first quarter but they relaxed and two late Daylesford majors made the game an even contest. Jake Dunne was a prominent target up forward as was Liam Rigby and they were stretching the defence lead by James Evans. The match turned for the next two quarters with the Bulldogs showing the better form and controlling the football for long periods. They were still nine points down at half time but they were not out of the game in general play. Cam Lovig, Patrick Rowe and Zac Tisdale were all playing with the enthusiasm which had returned to their attack on the game in the past two matches. Sebastian Walsh was relishing the opportunity get up the ground and was a lively contributor in the mid field. Meanwhile the Bombers were hanging in the contest through the in and under efforts of Alex Bomitali and Ned Gilbert and desperate defence from Jack Robertson and Nick Shell. Shell was gaining in confidence as the game progressed and his soaring mark right on half time will remain one of the highlights of the 2017 finals.

Daylesford though through continued pressure suddenly broke the game open late in the third quarter when they kicked five gaols to the eastern end of the ground and contained Buninyong to just three behinds for the term. Twenty points up at the final change and looking the much better side Daylesford started appeared to be marching to the preliminary final. They forgot what a champion competitor can do though and Bombers playing coach Jarrod Morgan turned the game with three outstanding efforts in the first few minutes all resulting in goals and the game was even again. Anthony Ebery was dominant in the ruck during this period and he lowerd colours of Daylesford’s Sam Winnard on the day. One of the few occasions when Winnard hasn’t been able to give Daylesford an advantage in the stoppages. Buninyong gradually got themselves ahead with a series of behinds but couldn’t seal the match and Daylesford had a number of attacks to get a win. Shell and Jacob Coxall were prominent in repelling a number of Bulldogs forward forays.

Buninyong won without being consistent across the whole game.

On Sunday in bitterly cold conditions the match at Daylesford commenced in a light flurry of snow but none of the difficulties took away from the competitiveness of the match between Springbank and Gordon. This was a repeat of the same semi-final form last year but neither side looked all that similar to the teams which took the field in 2016. Injuries has really altered their makeup but this didn’t take away from the endeavour that each showed in trying to progress to a preliminary final against Beaufort. The Tigers got away to a flyer mainly under the direction of small forward Bill Driscoll who was Springbank’s best with six majors in their total of 13 goals. He has an enormous level of pressure on him to perform at the moment with Springbank lacking any tall targets deep in their forward line.

Tom Eltringham is still out injured and is not appearing likely to be back next week. However, he is so smart, elusive and deadly accurate within range of goal he is a headache for whoever they play.

The three goal margin which Springbank had at quarter time proved to be a bonus as Gordon did most of the attacking for the rest of the match but were not able score regularly enough to bridge the gap. Just as they would get close as goal or two to Springbank would provide breathing space again.

Tye Murphy was outstanding and his clean handling of the football was of the highest quality.

There would rarely be a player on the ground who would give more to get his team a win.

Chris McGuigan was also in good touch and set up plenty of opportunities but there were few easy goals. Tyler George and Mitchell Couch were both making the most of the ball being on the ground in slightly heavy conditions and they had a major impact on getting Springbank deep forward on the short Daylesford ground. Despite the weather there was plenty of strong marking and Cameron Richardson, Matt Raworth and Steve Nicholson all had opportunities to score heavily. Gordon through persistence hit the front late in the final quarter but inaccuracy just didn’t allow them to build enough separation from Springbank.

It always felt like Springbank might have one further effort in them and when Michael Searl wobbled through a goal with four minutes to go the game changed one more time.

Then with one minute 30 seconds left Mitchell Couch levelled the scores, extra time looked inevitable. But Bill Driscoll was not to be denied making the most of an opportunity created by Travis Toohey to seal a win with under a minute left. Springbank must now recovery for a clash in six days with league leader Beaufort who will be well rested and ready to run. The Crows speed has been a key feature for them throughout the year and a dry week should help ensure that Bungaree suits their style of play.

Two players within this game, Jarrod McCorkell and Bill Driscoll will renew their contest in finals football. The last time they were on a ground together was probably a VFL grand final when McCorkell played for Northern Blues and Driscoll for the Roosters. Jack Duke and Lachlan Murray provide Beaufort with a potent mobile forward line who will keep the defence of Justin Simpson and Simon Quinlan very busy. With 101 goals between them they are going to play a bit part in making the match a real spectacle. Tom Stapleton or veteran Damien Day are most likely to get the crucial job on Bill Driscoll.

The return of Michael Searl last week proved a bonus for Springbank as his flexibility meant that he could stretch a defence or shut down an opponent.

If he goes forward Brendan Howard probably looks a good match.

In the second Preliminary final on Sunday at Learmonth Hepburn and Buninyong will both bring a great deal of experience in final action with them.

These two met in 2013 in the grand final when the Burras won their last premiership by a narrow 9 points. Since then there have been many changes with Buninyong having only seven players remaining from that grand final, whilst Hepburn retains 10 from that premiership. Both though have been able to bring in plenty of fresh faces who will give the game a different perspective. With the form of Jack Robertson, Chris Wills and Nick Shell the Bombers have a strong tall defensive unit. One of them will need to contain Aaron Burns who has proven to be a strong target throughout the year. A dilemma for Buninyong is the small forwards that Hepburn has, in particular Andy McKay who continues to be one of the best players in the league. However he has quite a few mates who are just a damaging. Jacob Brown and Jimmy Rodgers booted five goals between them in the Qualifying final win and if they do this again this week it might get them a grand final berth.

Alan Ware is the best blanket defender in the league and he will aim to shut down either Jake Dunne or Liam Rigby who both could turn the game if they get loose. Very often these preliminary final matches are the best games for the year and both are shaping as every chance that this could occur again. Having the opportunity to get on Mars Stadium, the only district league competition to play its grand final on an AFL venue will provide extra incentive to all, if any is needed.

Buninyong (69)
Daylesford (65)

Springbank (87)
Gordon (81)