By Ben Pollard
Talk about peaking at the right time…
The Under 17 Beaumaris Sharks finished the regular season with a 6-8 record. They lost to their grand final opponent, Cheltenham, by 67 points in a qualifying final and barely scraped over the line against Ajax in a semi final.
Even a solid victory over a strong St Peters side in a preliminary final wouldn’t have made them favourites to topple the Panthers at Highett Reserve on Sunday.
Yet, the Sharks were the ones celebrating wildly as the Under 17 premiers after the final siren had blown on the SMJFL season.
This was a tough and skilful contest from start to finish.
The first quarter produced some of the day’s most spectacular football: The defenders of both teams reigned supreme, spoiling every forward thrust with precision timing and rebounding the ball quickly down the other end.
Goals were at a premium and when Beauy’s Damien Johns slotted a brilliant running goal, the Sharks had slipped away to a valuable two-goal quarter-time lead.
Chelt’s midfield lifted the intensity in the second quarter and produced plenty of shots on goal, but the Panthers painfully couldn’t convert. After seven straight behinds, power forward Josh Manning finally split the big sticks for their first major.
However, the halftime scoreboard still looked worrying for Cheltenham, the Panthers trailing 1.9 (15) to 3.4 (22).
It felt like game on when Jack Gabron-Uhe converted from a set shot to bring the margin back to one point, but that feeling was short lived.
Beauy’s Kyle McDonagh answered with a running banana goal. Next: A Sharks stoppage goal. Big Matt Zagni floated across a pack for a contested grab and converted the set shot. Then when Drew Kelly pierced the goals from a tight angle near three-quarter time, Beaumaris was suddenly 26 points clear.
At the final break, Panthers coach Mick Lovejoy asked for a better effort in the middle and was rewarded with a goal from the first centre clearance of the last term.
But yet again, the Beaumaris defence was king, holding up resiliently as McDonagh and Johns sealed the victory with their second goals.
The final score was 9.5 (59) to 5.13 (43). Jack Edwards and Lucas Kelly battled hard for Cheltenham, but a wasteful 18 scoring shots to 14 told the story for the Panthers.
Matt Zagni claimed the best-on-ground medal for Beaumaris, delivering one of the more memorable post-match speeches from an SMJFL player, and the Sharks got their ‘fins’ out for the premiership photos.
Talk about bowing out of junior footy on a high…