By Sam Young
Season 2017 in the Central Highlands Football League has finished with a bang with both Hepburn and Beaufort playing out a terrific back fourth encounter at Mars Stadium on Saturday afternoon. A ten degree, overcast but not windy day is what Ballarat had installed for fans on Saturday with only a slight chill deterring edger fans who packed the newly furnished grand stands. As most grand finals go, the opening moment do set the tone for the remainder of the game and it was Hepburn forward Aron Burns who did so with Burns colliding heavily in the opening minute with Beaufort defender Jarrod Trigg. Trigg was left in a bad way after the incident and did not return to the field leaving Beaufort virtually down a man for the entirety of the game. Beaufort weathered an early hard hitting onslaught to kick the opening goal of the Grand Final at the four-minute mark with Mitchell Jenkins, snapping truly after a cute little side step found him another space to squeeze one through. However, there was an instant response with the high flying Burns finding too much separation inside 50 to mark and goal and level the scores for the Burras. At the eight-minute mark Hepburn spearhead, Lee Cox, put them in front after a beautiful double lead lost his direct opponent Brendan Howard and he was able to mark and goal from just inside 50. Daniel O’Halloran won a free kick and goaled, and when at the 15-minute mark, Hepburn youngster Jacob Brown, marked on 50 and was able to turn his opponent inside out and finish from an acute angle it was four in a row for the Burras and the minor premiers looked in all sorts. Beaufort did halt momentum slightly, with Rupert Sangster unleashing a 60 metre bomb to draw one back for the Crows, but at the 18-minute Jacob Brown was involved again for Hepburn, winning a free-kick on centre wing which resulted in a Brad McKay goal from a great overlay passage of play. Hepburn star Luke Stanton was prominent in the opening term, racking up 10 disposals with majority of them being uncontested on the far wing .Crows big man, Jacob Garvey, took a couple courageous marks in the dying moments of the first term to save Beaufort from leaking another goal as Hepburn dominated the opening term to lead by 21 points at the first break. Burra’s small forward, Jimmy Rodgers did not take much to any part in the first term. Rodgers was seen warming up intensely at the quarter time break with that left hamstring heavily strapped and restricting the majority of his minutes to the bench.
The second term began well for the Crows with captain Michael Foster cleverly finding Zane Thompson inside 50 to get the opening goal at the two-minute mark. It was vital that Hepburn’s smash mouth style of football didn’t become too overzealous with Beaufort cementing a real charge in the opening ten minutes of the second quarter. Unfortunately for the Crows, both Tim Haase and Jake Duke missed golden opportunities to capitalise and reduce the margin. Beaufort’s inability in early stages of the game to string back-to-back goals came back to hurt them, with Andy McKay providing the crowd with another piece of individual brilliance to run down a Beaufort defender and calming convert to put the margin back out to 19 points; before his brother Brad got in on the action as well, slotting home his second after beating a whoopy tackler to make it 25 points. With McKay’s on top, Hepburn could do no wrong with their young prodigy Jacob Brown doing some mercurial work up forward to kick his second, only to moments later take a huge contested pack mark to get another and make it 38 points as it ticked into time on in the second term. Beaufort’s backs were firmly against the wall and in all sorts, it took a goal to Chris Drew and Zane Thompson to kick his second to get the Crows first back-to-back goals in the match and begin the revival. The Burras tried their best to shut down a Beaufort resurgence, but at the 27-minute mark of the second term, Michael Foster showed his elite class with a lovely pirouette to spot Chris Drew running into a vacant 50 and get another one for the Crows. A late Beaufort fightback gave the Crows a sniff going into half time however moments before the halftime siren disaster struck, as Foster badly injured his lower leg in a contest in the middle of the ground and this incident would keep the Beaufort captain out for the remainder of the game. Hepburn took a 22-point lead into half time. With Beaufort down to only two rotations for the remainder of the match it was going to take something special for them to win their first premiership since 1996.
The second half couldn’t have got off to a worse star for the Crows, with David O’Halloran snapping his second from the impossible angle at the two-minute mark, before Aron Burns kicked his second five min utes later to make it 33 points in the Central Highland 2017 Grand Final. As they did in the second term, Beaufort did respond with Tim Haase kicking 2 goals in the space of a minute to give his sides supporters a real lift. However, at the 12-minute mark of the third term it was a big running goal from Hepburn’s Daniel Rees which stifled any momentum that the Crows and Haase were mustering. At the 16-minute mark, Jacob McCorkell kicked truly to wrestle back some momentum before a defensive blunder by Hepburn at the 19-minute mark gifted Jake Duke a major and all of a sudden the margin was only 18 points. Then, as it ticked into time on in the third, Zac Marrow slammed home another as that made it three rapid fire goals in a five-minute period for the Crows.
Beaufort forward Lachlan Murray soldiered on in the game after copping a heavy knock in the first term. At the 24-minute mark, Murray was able to get one lace out and reduce the game to five points as the went to three quarter time. The game had really come alive now, with the intensity going up and notch with both sets of supporters becoming very vocal.
At the start of the fourth, you thought a couple chances went begging for the Burras Lee Cox and Mitchell McKay both narrowly missing. However, at the four-minute mark veteran Lee Cox did get the opening goal that Hepburn so desperately craved in the final term to make it a 13-point ball game once again.
You could see the injuries and the lack rotations began to take its toll on the Crows the crows as they just illustrate their usual zig and zag in the final term. Rupert Sangster set Mars Stadium alight with a brilliant 5 bounce run down centre wing at the nine-minute mark, but his inability to finish off his brilliant work cost the Crows with Jacob Brown once again showing his class and kicking his fourth from 45.
At the 12-minute mark the Crows once again showed why they were this year’s minor premiers with defender Levi Cox’s chiselling ball finding Murray inside 50 where he converted his second and made it a 13-point ball game again. However, Hepburn were too strong and at the 15-minute mark, Burras injury hampered small forward Jarrod Rodgers, for the first time marked inside 50 and was able to go back and slot the final nail in the coffin as Hepburn defeated Beaufort by 18 points and gifting Hepburn there ninth Senior Premiership.The loss came as a double blow for the Beaufort Football Club as the Crows narrowly lost to Buninyong by eight points in the Reserve competition, as the Bunnies recorded there tenth Reserve Premiership the Central Highlands Football League. 2017 Coach of the Year and Beaufort Senior Coach, Rohan Brown congratulated both Hepburn and Beaufort on a courageous effort and said, “It was one of the greatest performance by the footy club in a long time”. Jacob Brown was awarded the Best on Ground award for his electric four goal performance in his first Senior Grand Final for Hepburn. Coach, Jason Olver was thrilled with the youngster’s performance and described his sides win post game as “a dream come true”.
Hepburn 15.15.105 def. Beaufort 13.9.87