SMJFL 1.3 3.4 6.7 8.9 (57)
EFL 4.3 8.4 14.6 17.11 (113)
Goalkickers: J. Higgins 3, J. Mangoni 2, W. Armstrong, A. Lowe, I. Morrisby
Best: J. Hille, J. Higgins, W. Armstrong, G. Cappiello, Z. Harris, B. Rekic
By Ben Pollard
The SMJFL’s Under 14 Division 1 team was defeated by a strong-bodied, tough Eastern FL outfit in their AFL Victoria Metropolitan Junior Championships grand final on Saturday.
Perfect afternoon conditions at Shepley Oval in Dandenong would have buoyed SMJFL coaches pre-game, with the team boasting an army of skilful players specialising in quick ball movement.
But after Jack Higgins broke apart some early scrappiness with the game’s first goal, the EFL simply didn’t allow South Metro any more room to breathe.
Eastern’s attack on the contest was ferocious, with suffocating pressure setting up their first two goals and then superior work at stoppages leading to another two majors.
When the SMJFL managed to get the ball forward late in the opening term, crucial set shots at goal weren’t converted.
Lachie Harris and Gianluca Cappiello were finding plenty of the ball, but the EFL started the second quarter as they finished the first, slotting the next two goals.
James Mangoni answered with a major of his own, but Eastern kept piling on the scoreboard pressure, extending their margin out to beyond six goals.
Soon before halftime, South Metro’s hopes for a comeback were raised with one passage of play displaying the class this team is capable of producing, but which had been sorely missed so far.
Big ruckman Ethan Casey – winning his fair share of hitouts – directed the ball down to Cappiello who cleared the centre bounce, with Higgins pouncing on the resulting ground ball inside 50 to snag a classy roving goal.
Was this the slight momentum change the SMJFL needed heading into the second half? It didn’t prove to be.
Eastern swamped South Metro with the opening two goals of the third term, before the classy Will Armstrong bagged one of his own and Josh Gorman’s tough rebounding from defense set up Higgins’ third major.
When the EFL stopped another potential momentum swing in its tracks with four unanswered goals, the game was done and dusted before the final break.
Considering the constant pressure the back line was under, Jackson Hille put in a sterling effort in defence, with his rebound and one-percenters repelling many a forward thrust for Eastern.
But unfortunately for the SMJFL, this was where the game was played. The EFL’s dominance in the vital centre square contests created too many scoring opportunities for South Metro to defend against.
A brilliant effort to defeat South East Juniors and the Yarra JFL and make the decider wasn’t enough for the team to bring home the Under 14 Division 1 title. 2014 now looms as this group’s chance for redemption.