VAFA – Div 1: A truly grand finale

In what can only be described as a magnificent showcase of amateur football, North Old Boys – St Patrick’s defeated Peninsula Old Boys by three goals at Sandringham last Sunday to convincing win the Division 1 premiership. Not since its 1982 A Grade win had the famous Brunswick-based club won a senior flag; importantly, this was the first premiership since NOBs combined with St Patrick’s Ballarat in 2006. For the Pirates, the bitter pill of another grand final loss will surely be difficult to swallow.

Perfect conditions greeted player and spectator alike at Trevor Barker Oval, and it was NOBs who looked the better team in the early stages. With skipper Matt Keown notching up a couple of early majors to make his presence felt, NOBs had all the play in the first term, kicking 6 goals to two. By the first break, NOB-SP had opened up a handy 26-point gap over their opponents. It would prove ultimately to be a decisive buffer, for unlike in the second-semi, North were piling on the scoreboard pressure, and the second quarter would evolve similarly to the first. NOBs’ midfield was well on top, winning the contested ball and denying the Pirates forwards any clean supply, whilst ruckman Peter Shepherd was on top in the middle. NOBs booted another five for the term. At one stage, the lead blew out to a massive 55 points before Peninsula kicked the last two to go into the long break 38 points down but with some hope. A huge third quarter would be needed if the Pirates were to get back into the contest.

To their credit, Peninsula came out into the second half with a renewed fight and gradually worked themselves back into the game. The catalyst for their revival was the Pirates midfield, which began to win the majority of contests, whilst the runners across half-back were also causing some rebounding damage. Whilst they only kicked three, Peninsula restricted NOBs to two majors, resulting in the margin being a manageable 30 points at three-quarter time. Pirates coach Brett McIlwraith was measured with his charges at the orange-break. But NOBs coach Richard Peoples was all fire and brimstone, his exhortations imploring his players not to throw away this golden opportunity for glory.

The last term was a classic. Peninsula, with Nick Fisher standing tall up forward, threw everything at NOBs. Barbour goaled early to ignite the large Pirates contingent, but Peninsula could never narrow the margin to less than nine points: NOBs always seemed to find a steadying goal, never allowing the gap to creep down to single figures. In the last ten minutes, both teams were out on their feet: Peninsula constantly booted the ball long in the hope of a mark, whilst North grimly defended. It was fabulous finals football. When the siren sounded, exhausted bodies were strewn about the arena, gasping for air and either breathing in the sweet scent of victory or attempting to digest foul defeat.

And so it was that North Old Boys – St Patrick’s, with their eighteenth win in succession,  deservedly claimed their rewards; Shepherd, Martin Porter, Tim Brady and the long-kicking Adam Oakley were all excellent contributors for the victors. Horsley and Keown both kicked 4. For Peninsula, best were the afore-mentioned Fisher, Ben Southam and Alex Wood. All Pirates fans should be in no doubt that their players gave their all right until the final siren.

Reserves: Old Geelong went one better than last season and claimed the “Magoos” flag with a 22 point win over the Unicorns in the curtain raiser. Despite challenging in the early part of the match, MHSOB tired badly in the last quarter, falling away to allow the Oggers to claim a comfortable win.

Smokie says: After three years, this is my final column for the Amateur Footballer. It has been a blast, but it is now time for a fresh scribe to step into my shoes. I have immensely enjoyed bashing out reports (and latterly, tweets) over the journey. The lunches have been hearty, and the post-match conversations brilliant. Thanks to all the club correspondents who consistently provided me with information and news, as well as the folk at VAFA headquarters. Last, but not least, thanks to my wife for her indulgence. I am fortunate to have been a small contributor to such a well-run competition as the VAFA.

About Darren Dawson

Always North.

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