NFL U18s Girls Grand Final: South Morang Lions v Darebin Falcons

On the outskirts of Melbourne, in the countrified atmosphere of Hurstbridge, on a late Sunday afternoon when the weather never quite got the memo that the clouds threatened, a few hundred people, family and friends, gathered to watch the 2014 NFL U18s Girls Grand Final.


Ben Frilay Oval was developed in the early 1920s, and I would hazard to say, has seen its fair share of footy. There would have been rivalries and punch-ons and close shaves and blow outs. Farmers’ sons from the other side of Panton Hill mixing it up in the mud with the white collar townies from Greensborough would have memories of the one that got away and the win that broke the drought.


The Lions vs Falcons Grand Final would not let those old timers down. Even those with a, shall we say, more certain view of football being a male game, would have spilt their beer cheering as this Grand Final drew to its most dramatic conclusion. I doubt this game will be forgotten in the mists of time; this was one for the fans, the record books and the ages.


South Morang came into this game as red-hot favourites. Theirs was a stellar season. They hadn’t dropped a game. They had height and conditioning and it would be fair to say, better ball and foot skills than the Darebin Falcons. However, the Falcons had something heading into this match. They had won 4 Premierships in a row. Their playing depth included girls who had tasted the ultimate victory. And that is a heady taste.


Following the obligatory playing of the national anthem, the siren sounded. In two hours or so one team would emerge victorious. While that idea hung in the air, the ball was in flight. Gena kicked long, aided by a good shepherd, and the Falcons were in the lead. By one point.


The Lions, as expected, settled and scored. And then again. They were playing more confident footy, sticking close to their Falcon opponent and harassing. The Falcons couldn’t break through.


This rolling maul would be the game’s pressure point, its pulse. The team that could break through the jam and score would win out. Grace marked, kicked on to Rechelle who moved it to Kat but the Lions stopped the run. Gena kicked a goal late in the Quarter, to keep the Falcons in touch. Mei played a Captain’s game, Vanessa was doing some good work and Loz, off the half-back flank as well.


Early in the Second Rechelle scored and the Lions lead was reduced to 2 points. This was as close as the Falcons would get for the next two quarters. While general play remained congested, the Lions were using the maul as a springboard to attack. They were, as the saying goes, starting to impose their style on the game.


In a fierce tackling game, it’s hard to single out one or two but Rechelle’s tackle that stopped a sure Lions’ goal would have to be up there. While the Lions had the run of the Second, it wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard. Just before the siren sounded they scored only their second for the Quarter. What did impress was the manner in which they scored it, a clean run and carry from the centre.


My notes for the Third are as follows:


“After peppering their goals with points the Lions finally get one through the big sticks. Then another. They are running harder. They can smell victory. Falcons have to lift. Find a way through. Karmen is doing a mighty job in defence. Falcons get one back and are still in it with a shot”.


At three quarter time the Falcons were 26 points behind.


Whatever Jess, the Coach, told her charges at the break, worked. Boy did it work. Dylan could not have said it better in his song, Forever Young, when he says, “May your hands always be busy, may your feet always be swift, may you have a strong foundation, when the winds of changes shift”.


Karly found some open space (which the tiring Lions were finding harder to control) ran on and goaled! Then Mercedes in a spectacular moment (yes, I’m related) ran back into a pack and marked. Her kick set off another Falcons run forward and goal! It’s a 14 point game. Gena was everywhere. Literally! I thought we were going to be fined for having two of her on the park. And Rechelle, with her second or third wind takes a running mark and goals.


There’s a goal difference. The siren must be about to sound. The crowd is equally deafening and eerily quiet. Mercedes Yia-Yia, who has been sitting quietly, dutifully watching her grand-daughter (and wondering how much the world has changed) for the last 90 minutes is up against the fence, heart racing. Mercedes sister, not sports greatest fan, is riveted to the contest. Her brother, the footy expert, can’t call it. Her Mum and I are having kittens! 20 minutes ago the Falcon’s chances had seemed hopeless. As The Junes sing, there’s still hope in hopelessness.


It’s a blur now. Dani (I think) laid a tackle and scored a free kick. She passes to the ever reliable Rechelle who kicks true. The scores are level. The scores are frickin level. The siren sounds. In a wave of relief and confusion and sheer exhaustion we all wonder: what now?


The officials know. So do the teams. So do enough spectators. A message moves quickly through the crowd: there’ll be two five minute halves of extra time and then (hopefully) the winner will be decided. The game has already given us so much.


How they could get up for another 10 minutes, I don’t know. They were stuffed. They had given their all, fought out the toughest, most relentless contest. There were booming kicks, specky marks, split second handpasses, thumps and bumps, players taken from the ground bloodied and injured, sublime plays and great goals. That was a game. Without an end. They had to keep going for another ten minutes. Imagine the Olympic marathon finishing in a draw and the runners getting up for another mile!


Both teams wanted the Cup and both teams knew there was only one way to get it. The Lions scored a point and the lead was set. The first extra time quarter finished and South Morang, wrongly, thought they had won. They settled and moved back into position for the last 5 minutes of the Grand Final.


Karly has the ball and she’s running. She kicks. She scores … a point. It was magnificent. Scores are level. For the next three minutes the ball is battered in close by a scrum of players, forcing the ball goalwards. To South Morang’s goal! The play stayed in a 10 metre radius of the Lions goals for what seemed like forever. Every attempt by South Morang to force the ball through was met with an even greater Falcons’ resistance.



Then the game broke open. Then the Falcons took the ball out to the Flank. Then the Wing. Then into their forward line. Then it was trapped. Now the Lions held the ball in. Surely 5 minutes was up.


Then out of nowhere (Taylor actually) a Falcon put foot to ball and the ball tumbled forwards. Bouncing in a seemingly erratic manner, the ball headed goal-ward, with enough torque (and collective will-power) that it just kept going. I don’t know what came first the siren or the ball’s final destination but the score (a point) and siren won the game for the Falcons.


Yes, the Falcons held the Premiership Cup and Flag aloft. They stole the win. With all the will in the world and guts and determination and skills and teamwork and a sense of fun more than business – the Falcons won their fifth in a row. And those fortunate to witness it (let alone play) will be telling the story of this Grand Final for the rest of our lives.


Final score: Falcons 7.5 (47) drew with Lions 6.11 (47) at Full Time, then Falcons 7.7 (49) def Lions 6.12 (48) after Extra Time. Gena Lawson-Tavan, deservedly, was awarded Best on Ground.


Darebin Falcons

Mercedes Kane and Anastasia Dimitriadis with their Premiership medallions.


  1. Really well told story Rick and you kept the suspense going brilliantly. I doubted you would write a report if your daughter lost, but at 3Q time I thought maybe you felt a higher duty to the game than the result, when “we” were 26 points down.
    Great photo. Is Anastasia fellow Knacker Lord Bogan’s daughter? They must both have lookers as mums.
    Congrats to both sides on a great contest.

  2. Sensational R Kane. Simply superb. Congratulations girls. A Premiership medallion always has a story attached. This one is a beauty.

  3. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Just brilliant Rick. The girls were superb. Even in the third quarter they hung in when they could have easily been blown away. That last quarter was more than just footy. It was about the will to find a way, not just to win but to not be defeated. The most inspiring game of footy I’ve seen in ages. Congrats to Mercedes and Anastasia (Second generation Almanckers!) and to all the girls and the club for capping off a great season with a victory that they’ll remember for ages.
    Top stuff Rick. Go Falcons.
    PS PB, We played our role…understated, yet necessary.

  4. Thanks guys, the story barely captures the actual events.

    For Mercedes, this was pretty sweet. She started with the Falcons last year, played three games and broke her ankle. She watched her team win last year’s GF (another come from behind win) from the sidelines. This year she was fortunate to feel that winning feeling for real!

    Anastasia, Mercedes and other young girls will, over the next few years, develop into the spine of the side and that pretty exciting to contemplate.


  5. Monica Kane says

    Well told Rick. I could feel the game’s intensity throughout and I’m a fan of your superb one liners. Such as: Gene – she was everywhere…thought we might be fined for having two on the park! And the Junes reference too. Great piece – stoked Mercedes and co got to experience this battle…and of course, winning is the cream. :) xx

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great stuff Rick loved your passion and obvious pride , well done girls !

  7. Good stuff, Rick. Did anyone take a photo of the scoreboard at the end of the game.If so, I’d be keen to run it on Scoreboard Pressure with, of couurse, a link to this story. Cheers.

  8. Brilliant effort, Lions, Falcons, R Kane.
    Well played all.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Rick. Almost as good as the spoken word version at Friday’s lunch! Well done Falcons.

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