By Ben Pollard
SMJFL fans witnessed one of the more remarkable finishes to a junior grand final on Sunday.
The main event at Le Page Park in Cheltenham, the Under 13 Division 1 premiership match, was decided by the very last play of the day.
Having trailed Beaumaris Sharks for the entire game, East Malvern Gold won a free kick from a rolling pack in their forward line with less than 30 seconds to play.
The resulting set shot goal from best-on-ground Jack Higgins put his team ahead for the first time right when it mattered.
The loss was heartbreaking for the gallant Sharks, with many boys falling to the ground as the final siren sounded – at one point early in the final quarter, Beaumaris led by almost three goals.
But for East Malvern, there were scenes of jubilation as celebrations started for a comeback victory they’ll never forget.
East Malvern assistant coach Michael Stephenson said the effort was something to be proud of.
“Their fight was fantastic… It’s just a remarkable sign of their courage and tenacity,” he said.
“We’ve been down in the last quarter against a couple of sides during the year and come back and won, so I felt confident that if we were down we’d still have a bit left in us.”
Beaumaris dominated most of the first quarter, piling on 3.3 (21) before East Malvern scored. The Sharks’ intensity stood out as they dominated at the stoppages.
East Malvern soon got going, and the teams often went goal for goal through the second and third quarters as the margin hovered around 12 points.
At three-quarter time, Beaumaris coach and AFL champion Dermott Brereton urged his players to keep working towards a victory they could remember for the rest of their lives, but it wasn’t to be.
After conceding the first goal of the final term, East Malvern finally clicked into gear. Michael Stephenson said fresh legs allowed his players to snatch victory with the last three goals of the game.
“They (Beaumaris) ran ferociously hard today – in fact, that’s been our strength and they outran us for a lot of the game.
“I think in the end we ran on harder… We hadn’t been at our best, so I was confident we had a little bit left.”
Jack Higgins’s match-winning goal capped off a brilliant game from the East Malvern captain, but Stephenson said there were many contributors in the premiership win.
“Will Sutherland stood out and Ed Ralph was very good for us; Charlie McGaw presented well… But I don’t think there was anyone who didn’t make a contribution and do something important for us.”
Big Hayden McLean was superb for the Sharks in defeat, while Will Armstrong was influential with three goals up forward.
But for the Beaumaris boys in tears after the game, this is one day they’ll unfortunately remember for all the wrong reasons.