By Ben Pollard
MORDIALLOC-BRAESIDE WHITE 15.9 (99) def MURRUMBEENA GOLD 7.8 (50)
An impressive display of attacking class and unrelenting defence saw Mordialloc-Braeside triumph by 49 points over Murrumbeena in the Under 16 Division 1 grand final.
Sunday’s clash at Mentone Grammar Playing Fields was the encounter everyone would have been anticipating since both teams finished the regular season at least five wins ahead of third position.
And this match delivered, with the ferocious intensity from both sides befitting the biggest stage of all.
Mordialloc-Braeside signalled its intentions strongly during the game’s early stages, trapping the ball in its forward half before skipper Ryan O’Leary capitalised on that initial dominance with a snap goal.
Mordi’s Nathan Peterson announced his significant presence soon after, plucking a contested mark on the goal line and converting the set shot from a tight angle.
Harry Smyth was providing plenty of drive for the Mustangs, bursting forward at will and launching the ball towards goal with his booming boot.
When one of Smyth’s forward forays found Peterson again for his second major, the alarm bells were ringing for Murrumbeena.
Liam Bisognin was taking up the fight for the Lions with his aggression at the ball carrier but every time Beena drove forward, Mordi’s defence would rebound with brutal efficiency.
Peterson soon had another mark inside 50 and converted his third goal. Without an opponent to counter his strength in the air and agility at ground level, the big man was threatening to blow the game apart.
But just when it appeared the dream might be over before it began for the Lions, their prime movers in the midfield got to work.
Captain Jesse Toniolo, Harvey Hooper and Will Mackie put their heads over the ball and in the shadows of quarter-time, Mitch Wildoer finally took the pack mark and kicked the set shot goal that put Beena on the board.
But any hint of a momentum swing was promptly snuffed out when play resumed in the second term, as the lively Kurt Lopo goaled for the Mustangs and then a centre clearance from Dylan Atkins found Peterson for his fourth major.
At this stage, Murrumbeena’s best chances to score were coming from winning at the stoppages and driving the ball forward with speed, as Mordi’s wall across half back was proving impenetrable when given time to set up.
The defensive effort was led by Jordyn Hall’s aggressive rebounding and Jack Vorbach’s uncanny knack for interception, while Liam Marshall was holding down a key post with aplomb.
Toniolo and Matt Hanson answered with goals for the Lions, but late majors to Corey Connelly, Atkins and then Harley Balic helped put the Mustangs 37 points up at the main break. From there, it was a matter of grinding their way home to the flag.
Beena never gave up though, with Toniolo regularly extracting the ball from traffic and driving it forward, Lachlan Walker providing a constant mobile marking target and big man Matthew Colak fighting an absorbing battle in the ruck with Mordi’s Dhanesh Jayasalen.
With the game really opening up late in the last quarter, the Mustangs had several ‘icing on the cake’ moments.
Peterson ran into goal for his fifth and then put Jaye Edmunds into space for a running goal of his own, before Stephen Clarke sprinted towards the large (and jubilant) Mordi cheer squad behind the big sticks to boot the game’s final goal.
Blistering attack and stout defence: Mordialloc-Braeside’s deserved premiership victory had it all.