By Sam Young
THE Darley Football Club have secured their second Ballarat Football League premiership after a dominate display against cross-town rivals Bacchus Marsh on Saturday at Mars Stadium.
The Devils’ class stood tall with Coach Heath Scotland not only lifting the Premiership club for the first time as senior coach but also taking out the AFL Worksafe CVFL Medal. Running defender Luke Delahey was awarded the Roy Edward Trophy for best on ground with Scotland admitting that he and his teammates had done everyan thing that could be asked of them this season. “That’s been the pleasing thing. They are a wonderful bunch of men and kids that I get to coach. Time and time again I asked them to dig deep and find something and every time I have challenged them they have risen to that and today was no exception.” A heavy breeze blew across the ground throughout the day, but besides that it was a warm and perfect day for football to be played on arguably the best ground not just in Ballarat, but country Victoria. In the opening stages of the term it took both sides a while to get into the match. Cobras big man Daniel Burton was instrumental early, dropping off and taking a few intercept grabs to save his side whilst Devils Vice-Captain and veteran defender, Darren Leonard, was doing the same at the other end in the blustery conditions. It remarkably took until the 24-minute mark for the first major to be kicked and it came from an unlikely source with Devils Ruckman Abraham Kur, squeezing one home to get Darley on the board. Leigh Spiteri and Mark Hanson missed opportunities to extend the lead further initially until Chris Graham won a 50m penalty to goal and help give his side a 14-point lead at the first break. Scotland was very pleased at his quarter time address. He highlighted that the wind was going to be a major factor in this game and that the one-on-one battles are going to be crucial for victory. Bacchus Marsh coach, Travis Hodgson, at his quarter time address more encouraged his charges to keep the intensity up but gave them all a friendly reminder that they needed to stick the tackles. Bacchus Marsh started the better of the two sides with Scott Sherlock leading the way in the midfield and driving his side into attack on a number of occasions. But his teammates couldn’t take advantage with Matt Denham missing not one, but two golden opportunities to kick the Cobras first major in the Grand Final. However, it was Darley who got the first major of the second term with Spiteri’s delightful underground handball, finding Matthew Young in space 20m from goal, and allowing the Western Jets listed player to dribble home and make it an 18-point ball game. At the 23-minute mark, it was the Devils elite foot skills again coming into play with small forward Harley Inglis finding too much space inside 50, and going back to kick his 38th goal of the season. After five more minutes of pressing and a few structural changes, Bacchus Marsh did get a goal in the first half as it came to its closure and of course it had to be there stand out player from the first half. Scott Sherlock was that man and with the classy midfield snapping from 25 to give his side hope going into half time Darley’s lead was reduced to 21 points. That late goal may have gave the Cobras hope, but they were going to have to complete the comeback without swingman Rhys McNay whose Grand Final was over after injuring his left elbow midway through the second term. The third quarter is traditionally renowned as the Premiership quarter and didn’t Darley take that omen in their stride. The Devils slammed home six goals to Cobras one to all but sew up the 2017 Premiership by three quarter time. With a 49-point deficit going into the last quarter it was all about pride in the jumper for the Cobras and it can’t be disputed that they gave up with Matthew Denham, Declan Phyland and Captain Tyson Shea all continuing to battle hard in the final term for the Cobras.
Logan Blundell kicked a wonderful stoppage goal to put some respect back in his performance after virtually tagging Heath Scotland all afternoon. Obviously Scotland had the last laugh with the ex-AFL superstar finishing the game off with the goal of the day, a 45m finish tucked up against the boundary line and his side winning every quarter and winning by 50 points. Darley the victors and the 2017 Ballarat Football League Premiers, but Hodgson couldn’t have been more proud of his sides effort in the loss saying post-game, “I thought you threw everything you had at Darley at that third quarter today, but they were good enough to stand up and we weren’t good enough to get it done; but, thanks for your efforts.”
The victory comes extra sweet for Devils with the Reserves side also taking home the premiership against the cross-town rivals in the Reserve Grand Final as well. It’s just rewards for Reserves coach Travis Minns, veteran Dane Grenfell, Nick Thacker as well as Brad Inglis with all four men being left out of the senior premiership lineup. Grenfell was influential with a goal crucial late goals and Inglis was awarded the best on ground medal. Darley will go into season 2018 red hot favourites to go back-to-back and make it three premierships in a fouryear period. Speculation continues around Heath Scotland’s playing future with rumors circulating that he will hang up the boots and become a non-playing coach.
For Bacchus Marsh, a lot a promise is still amongst the ranks. Youngsters like Billy Griffiths, Dylon Bishop and Blake Graham showed plenty of promise and were impressive throughout the Final Series, so there is no doubt they will thereabouts in 2018 again. In the end, it was Darley’s day, and ultimately, it was Darley’s season.
Darley 14.11.97 def. Bacchus Marsh 6.11.47