VAFA Div 1 – Grand Final Preview: A Clash of Two Titans


In what seems like the blink of an eye, we have arrived at the season’s denouement. Was it really six months ago that the ten Division 1 clubs were winding up their pre-season programs, full of hope for the year which lay ahead? The season has whisked past us so quickly.

Preliminary Final review: Last week’s penultimate game of the season turned into a disappointingly one-sided affair from the outset. Peninsula’s defence was at its meanest, denying Old Geelong’s powerful forward line any latitude, whilst its midfield was on top of the Hoops’ throughout the contest. Despite triumphing in their two previous meetings, it appeared as if the Oggers had played their grand final in the thrilling over-time win over the Friars, and subsequently had nothing left in the tank. In the blustery conditions at Central Reserve, OGs just could not get into the game, despite the tireless efforts of midfielder Mick Rockefeller. Had the Pirates kicked straighter, their win would have been much greater. Coach Frank Dunnell and his charges would have been left lamenting that Old Geelong had come so far only to cop an 8-goal belting, but the OGs have made giant strides this season, and will now enter 2013 as one of the legitimate Div 1 flag contenders.

Today: And now here we are, with the two stand-out teams of the season, both deservedly promoted to Premier C, primed to do battle in the decider which most of us have long expected to take place. Both North Old Boys – St Patrick’s and Peninsula Old Boys have an excellent blend of experience and youth, and boast depth right down to the 22nd player on the interchange bench. This grand final promises to be a corker.

2012’s three previous meetings between the competition’s titans provide interesting reading. The results have produced results which have fluctuated wildly, and do not offer any pointers to today’s contest:

Round 2: Peninsula 22.17.149 d NOB-SP 8.13.61. This was NOBs’ only loss for the season, but what a loss it was! Pirates forwards Payze (6 goals), Coghlan (3), and Grigg (3) all managed to get off the leash in this romp at Mt Eliza. Two paltry first-half goals ensured NOBs day was done at half-time, whilst Peninsula stamped themselves as the real deal. NOBSP coach Dick Peoples quickly consigned this game to the dustbin and moved on and his team have not lost since.

Round 11: NOB-SP 9.11.65 d Peninsula 3.7.25. NOBs gained revenge for their round 2 loss with a convincing win at their boggy Gillon Oval fortress. The Pirates were surprisingly impotent in attack, managing only three majors for the match. Again, the pattern of the game was set in the first half, with NOBs nullifying any Pirates scoring opportunities.

Second semi: NOBSP 8.17.65 d Peninsula 8.15.63. NOBs earned the shorter route into the finale with a tough come-from-behind victory in which they booted the last three goals of a tight contest. It was a typical final: not a pretty contest, but tough and uncompromising. Both teams had heaps of opportunities to steal a break, but neither could produce any efficiency in front of goal until NOBSP finally capitalised on a few late chances.

Grand final: Thus, the stage is now set for a titanic clash at Trevor Barker Oval. And it could well be across the NOBs half-forward line that the match is won or lost. It will be vital for the Pirates’ chances that their defenders keep NOBs forwards Matt Firman, Todd Patterson, Scott Sleep and Matt Keown (the comp best and fairest) under control. Nothing separates the ruck divisions, led by Peter Shepherd (NOBs) and Brett Brisbane (Pen) respectively, although the former was crucial in the latter stages of the semi. Likewise, the midfields are evenly matched, and both run deep. Stefan Barbour is a gun, and looms as a real key for the Pirates if he can cap off an outstanding season, whilst for NOBs, sweeping defender Adam Oakley sets up many forward thrusts with his pinpoint kicking. Both teams are well-balanced, and are guided by well-prepared coaching units.

Prediction: Amazingly, your scribe has correctly predicted the result of the three finals to date. This grand final has warranted much more deliberate contemplation than the two previous weeks, and I admit to have been swinging back and forth like a pendulum. But I have settled on the refreshed North Old Boys – St Patricks, just, in a clash which promises everything.

About Darren Dawson

Always North.

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