VFL: Port v Scorpions


I’m back at North Port Oval for the 1st Qualifying VFL Final between Port Melbourne and Casey Scorpions.  The crowd is significantly boosted today by the appearance of Brendan Fevola with the Scorpions.  I’ve been joined by some mates who I play veterans cricket with out atAinsliePark in Croydon.  Chris and I have somewhat of a shared history, as both our fathers grew up in Port Melbourne and we met at school out at Ringwood over 40 years ago.  One of my early recollections of him, was on a regular sports day, wondering who was the kid in the Port jumper.  We have remained friends and played cricket together on and off over the years.  Though Chris did ditch his father’s passion for the Swans early in life and jumped on board the Hawks.  Not a bad decision in hindsight.


Also with us are Trev and Tim, a few years younger though graduates of the same school out east.  Trev’s son Evan Panozza is playing for the Scorpions so we are all keen to see him play well after a season somewhat restricted by injury.


There is a howling wind across the ground that favours theWilliamstown Roadend, though goals can be kicked from either end if you make the necessary allowances.  Casey start well kicking into the wind with Fev taking some strong marks and kicking well for 2 early goals.  Both teams are hard at it and Evan is doing well across half back.  As the game settles, I notice that Port has made a few changes from last week with veteran ruckman, David Fanning in along with youngsters Jake Dermott down back and Billy Burstin up forward.  Tall forwards Callum Sinclair and Adrian Bonaddio have missed out.


We find out later that young Dermott is the son of legendary, multipremiershipPortbackman, Greg “Biff” Dermott.  In recent weeks I’ve also noticed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist Jeff Burstin in the crowd.  Famous as an integral member of Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons and the Black Sorrows, I’m guessing that young Billy is his son or nephew perhaps.


Shooter McMahon snags a couple of nice goals for Port to keep the scores fairly even for the quarter with 3 goals apiece.  Has Port wasted the advantage of the strong wind though?  At the break, Chris & I head for the Port huddle and Trev and Tim to the Scorpions.  Ayres is low key and emphasises process and persistence.  I’m standing behind a bloke in a Port jumper, with No.10 on back and signatures of Fred Cook (5), Sam Holt (10) and Greg Dermott (25). Now that is a collectors’ piece from our golden era.  News from the Scorpions huddle is that coach Brad Gotch is fired up and pumping his boys up.


The second quarter continues as a strong and willing contest from both sides, however despite playing well Evan is unfortunately pinged for a couple of unlucky frees.  Trev is fuming, I am quietly happy.  Port is starting to get on top and run the ball through the middle.  The wind has dropped and goals can be scored to theIngles Streetend.  Fanning and DeLuca have control in the ruck and Valenti and Pinwell are dominating around the packs.  A 6 goal to 3 quarter has Port comfortably up at the main break.


Chris has noticed triple premiership captain/coach Gray Brice in the crowd and goes over for a chat.  He knew him well when they were kids as Bricey lived next door to Chris’s grandmother in Port and they used to kick the footy in the street.  I wonder if you see that these days in bustling gentrified Port Melbourne?  I spot Steve Allender the Liston Trophy winner and premiership player.  Steve went on to play with the Swans then the Hawks, however did not really reach his potential I think.  Its seems that past players and lapsed supporters are all on board.


After the break Port puts the foot down and starts to score at will and the game is over as a contest with an 8 goal to nil quarter.  Bustling Billy Burstin kicks some nice goals and Port is terrific right across the board.  At the huddle Ayres is again on about process and making a statement, even though we are 12 goals up.  I like it though when he draws the players in for his final words before the last quarter and when he asks “Who are we?” as one they roar “The Borough!”


The last quarter is a formality, Fev kicks some junk time goals to finish with 6 out of the 9 they get.  Paddy Rose who has been a bit quiet for us, gets some late goals and finishes with 4 and Shooter McMahon who’s had a great day gets 5 goals.  We all agree that Evan has been the Scorpions best in a losing side.  No bias on our part.  It’s a resounding 15 goal win for Port.  Onwards to the preliminary final in two weeks time.


A comfortable win to Williamstown over Box Hill on Sunday means that we are on track for a Port v Willy Grand Final. That would not only match the best two teams for the year, but the two teams with the greatest VFA histories.  Its a tantalising prospect.


About Keiran Croker

Keiran is a lifelong Swans supporter, despite a brief dalliance with the Cats and Tigers in primary school years. Family connections to Port Melbourne and South Melbourne demanded loyalty to the Swans. The long wait for success was worth it.

Leave a Comment