CHFL preview – Grand Final Grand Final between neighbours After a massive preliminary final weekend the clashes between neighbours continues in the Central Highlands FL grand final. Springbank and Gordon finished the home and away season first and second on the ladder and this form would appear to be a true indicator as they will now face up in the decider on Saturday at Eureka Stadium Springbank won through after a very tough encounter against Bungaree at Learmonth, with the slim margin of just five points and the Demon’s surging. It was a match where neither side was able to take control of the game and build a comfortable buffer with both teams having opportunities to take control. The Tigers were able to find a range of ways to create a number of goals through moving various unexpected options forward including Justin Simpson and Michael Searl.
In particular Simpson who finished with three goals. The other forward line bonus was the inclusion of North Ballarat Rooster’s Nic Couch who went some of the way towards offsetting the absence of Paul McMahon.
Joel Maher proved the dominant mid-fielder on the day; Bungaree never seemed to be able to stop him getting the ball away even under heavy tackling. Robbie Lockett and Mitch Keighrey are also having a good final series. They were able to contribute two goals each and a repeat of this level of contribution will be vital under the heat of a grand final. Bungaree were very good on the day and their effort with three players injured and unable to contribute was particularly commendable. Nic Weightman had a great match and repelled many attacks by Springbank, whilst at the other end Luke Mirtschin worked hard to create three goals and lead the Demons goal scorers. It always appeared to be a battle for Bungaree going forward and they were not able to set up many easy shots at goal. Tom Wilson at times as able to mark near the centre but was not able to be the target inside forward fifty. Shaun Finlayson and Jackson Murphy battled hard but they were also often forced a long way from goal.
This highlighted the strength of the Springbank defence lead by Simon Quinlan.
The second preliminary final on Sunday had none of the drama of the previous day but it did highlight a team which is in form at the right time of the year. Gordon blew the game open in the first quarter kicking six goals towards the end which appeared to be disadvantaged by the strong wind, even though sides were able to score at both ends throughout the day. This early momentum proved crucial as it allowed the Eagles to maintain a handy four goal lead at half time even though Ballan had enjoyed the best of the second quarter. Throughout the day whenever Ballan were able to win the ball through the middle of the ground and take it forward Gordon’s tall defenders were just too decisive, Brad Hallam and Gerard Clifford were outstanding at dropping off their opponent to incept mark in front of the Blues main target Daniel King, who Hamish Watts was able to keep under control throughout the day. This control in defence enabled the Eagles to hold on until they would gain control of the midfield again and then attack fiercely running forward from everywhere. Tye Murphy and Luke Gunnell in particular were working beautifully around stoppages and setting up the kamikaze running style of Gordon.
Steve Nicholson proved too strong in the air for whoever Ballan put on him and took a number of marks whilst caught behind his opponent. His five goals proved vital and the return to top form of Mick Nolan adding a further tore the Ballan defence apart. Ben Quinlan and Harley Hunter were also key contributors in an excellent win which sets up the first Jimmy Toohey Cup clash as a grand final in the CHFL. Each of Springbank and Gordon have had their very lean periods in the past ten years winning none or just a couple of matches but they have both been able to bring together a strong groups of locals topped up with key inclusions. Springbank with eleven locals in last week’s side and Gordon with fifteen shows that this is the best way to build the club. Gordon in particular have built this group around an under 17 grand final runner up team of 2007. As with all grand finals this week’s game is going to garner enormous numbers of different opinions as the qualities and advantages of each team will be debated. The one which will probably get the most consideration is will Paul McMahon be fit to return to his spot in the Tigers forward line. His mobility will be a key on the expanses of Eureka Stadium, but equally if he hasn’t recovered fully these open spaces could be his downfall.
If he plays it could mean that Gordon would have to take Mark Gunnell out of the centre half forward role he has been filling in recent weeks and head back into the key defensive role which he excels in.
Or it could provide the opportunity for Brad Hallam to take major step forward against a quality opponent. Springbank coach Terry Simpson has had to show his hand a bit with some of the moves forward of Michael Searl and Justin Simpson.
If McMahon is still out does he have another option up his sleeve to pinch a few goals or will these two again do the job.
Bill Driscoll, Joel Maher and Robbie Lockett provide Springbank with a hard on ball brigade but they will find a similar line up in Harley Hunter, Tye Murphy and Chris McGuigan awaiting them at each stoppage around the ground. The crowds which were at the preliminary finals last weekend highlight that there is enormous interest in this final series and the carnival which is the Central Highlands FL grand final is sure to again attract a bumper crowd.