|Coach||Jason Mifsud||Ass. Coach||Craig Tonkin|
|Runner||Matt McNally||Team Mgr||Sonia McNally|
|Captain||Brayden Haynes||Trainer||Ray Baker|
|Teams||1st Q.||2nd Q.||3rd Q.||4th Q.|
|Goalkickers : Chris Langdon 3, Luke McNicholis 2, Travis Woolnough 2,|
|Brayden Haynes 1, Marcus Lee 1, Matt Petering 1.|
After accounting for Ajax in the Preliminary Final by a mere 4 points, the Sharks found themselves back at Trevor Barker Oval for a rematch of the Second Semi Final with Caulfield Grammarians.
The rain had held off and the oval was in reasonable condition compared with the previous week's game, but the wind was estimated to be worth five or six goals going to the southern end of the ground. At the end of the first quarter, that is exactly how it turned out, with Caulfield leading by 45 points. The Fields had kicked 6.9 to the Sharks 0.0. It wasn't looking good for the Sharks, who also had Sam McBain off with what looked like a serious leg injury. Losing the toss was looking crucial.
The Sharks needed to get some quick goals on the board in the second quarter and that is exactly what happened. Marcus Lee snapped one from the pocket inside the first minute and the Sharks had their first score of the match. Tommy Dean, using his strength, took the ball out of the centre from the next ball-up and Marcus Lee again drove the ball into the goal square for Luke McNicholas to snap a goal and the Sharks had two inside two minutes. For the next six minutes, the game became an arm-wrestle with multiple ball-ups and with the Fields making only one driving attack into their forward line against the wind, for no result.
The Sharks were able to move the ball back down the ground and force a throw-in from the Beach Rd. forward pocket. McNicholas won the tap and Petering pounced on the ball. He snapped, the ball, beat the defence, and it bounced through for another goal. Seven and a half minutes into the quarter and the Sharks had their third straight goal and now trailed by 27 points. Ten minutes into the quarter and another throw-in saw McNicholas once again win the tap, this time down to Michael DeFontenay who drove the ball towards the goal for Travis Woolnough to mark 25 metres out directly in front. He kicked truly and the Sharks had their fourth on the board. With 11 minutes gone the Sharks now trailed by 21 points.
A centre square infringement by the Fields gave the dominant McNicholas the ball and he drove it into the Shark's forward line again only to see the Caulfield defenders punch the ball over the boundary line for a throw-in roughly in the same spot as a minute before. This time Dougie Pritchard, as the third man up, tapped the ball down to Adam Catlin to gather and slam onto his boot. The ball swung towards the opposite forward pocket. Mick Millar, in his first season with the Senior team after coming through the Junior club, gathered the tumbling ball and showed the composure that was a feature of his game in the Juniors. He handballed under pressure to his skipper Brayden Haynes, who duly slotted through another major. With 12 minutes gone, the Sharks had their fifth straight and now trailed by 15 points.
Caulfield had stopped to a walk. For the next 16 minutes the game went back to being an arm-wrestle. The Fields made several forays into their forward line only to come up against Sean Coote patrolling across the half back line, Tim Collins playing with his normal composure under pressure and some typically solid and creative work from Mark Ensor. Nick Loucaides was also picking up some important touches deep in the Beaumaris backline.
At the 28-minute mark the Fields made another drive into their forward line. After a towering mark from Meredith in the middle of the ground, the Fields vice-captain Slevison kicked a steadying goal from the flank. To say the Fields needed it would be an understatement. For the next four minutes, it looked like Caulfield were getting back in the game and could quite have easily kicked another before the half-time siren blew. Going into the break, the Sharks were down by 19 points and were going to have to contain the Fields in the third quarter if they were to have a chance of winning the game.
They don't call the third quarter the Premiership quarter for nothing. With the Fields kicking with the aid of a strong breeze, the Sharks were going to have to hold them to a reasonable score to have any chance of overtaking them in the final quarter.
The first five minutes of the quarter could only yield one point each. Tommy Dean, Alex Bennett and Matt Duggan were proving a stumbling block and not giving the Fields forwards any opportunities. Adam Catlin had the ball on a string for a couple of minutes when he fired it inside 50 three times in as many minutes from the bayside wing. The breakthrough came at the sixth minute mark from another boundary throw-in. With an open goal square, the ball was thrown in from the forward pocket in front of the social club. Dougie Pritchard, once again flying in from the side, punched the ball towards the goal and it was a foot-race between Chris Langdon and Caulfield's Ross and Scheetz to see who could get there first. Langdon won and snapped the ball truly from just outside the goal square and the Sharks were within 13 points. For the next ten minutes, the ball was moving between both ends of the ground with little result for either team.
The Field's big men, Nelson and Meredith were starting to take some big pack marks and stopping any movement of the ball into the Shark's forward line. Atkins, however, was in everything whenever it went into the Field's forward area. Murton was starting to become damaging through the middle of the ground, as was Langdon. Tommy Dean's strength was starting to trouble the Fields. Another strong mark from Dean in the middle of the ground saw the ball pumped back deep into the Sharks forward area for another ball-up. Once again, enter Chris Langdon. Despite some close checking from the Caulfield defense, Langdon was able to gather the ball, side step a Caulfield defender, and slot through another major from the goal square. The Sharks were now within 6 points at the 14 minute mark.
For the next 15 minutes, the backlines were on top. Both sides squandered opportunities and were only able to score points. The difference was back out to 8 points before Will Murton was able to break free from a tackle and grubber a ball towards goal where Carroll managed to knock the ball onto Marcus Lee, who, in turn, under pressure, managed to fire a handball in the direction of the goals and Woolnough was able to put it through for another major. The Sharks were now within 2 points as the three quarter-time siren sounded.
The scene was set for an exciting final quarter. Within seconds of the quarter starting, a vice like tackle by Matty Duggan on Daly earned him the free kick. Wasting no time, he fed the ball off to the skipper, Brayden Haynes, who balked one player and shot off a handball to Luke McNicholas. McNicholas kicked truly from 50 and put the Sharks in front for the first time.
The intensity of the game lifted again. For the next five minutes, it was two teams just wanting the football and no side could get an easy clearance. The crowd was just waiting for something to happen and it did. After a ball-up, 25 metres out from the Fields goal, Doug Pritchard grabbed the lose ball and was immediately tackled and taken to ground. Whatever 'prior opportunity' there was happened in a nano-second, but that was enough for the field umpire to pay 'holding the ball'. Hammond was able to kick straight and the Fields were back in front by two points. Within 20 seconds of the ball being bounced in the centre, Perkins kicked another and Caulfield were 8 points up. The Fields had lifted.
The pressure was now firmly back on the Sharks. They had their chances. At the 12-minute mark, a clearing kick to the wing by Caulfield was intercepted by Duggan coming off the bench. He kicked into the forward line for Sam McBain to take a shot from the pocket, but he missed to the right. The difference was now 7 points. Four minutes later McBain had another opportunity, but a kick off the ground again missed to the right.
It was now one even goal the difference. Two minutes later, Tommy Dean drilled one from 55 metres, but just missed to the left. Sharks were now down by 5 points. At the 21-minute mark Slevison for Caulfield marked 25 metres out, played on and missed to the right. Back out to a one goal difference. The 23-minute mark saw O'Sullivan miss a snapshot to put the Fields 7 points up. A minute later, Travis Woolnough missed from a mark 40 metres out and it was back to one goal the difference.
With 26 minutes gone, Tommy Dean again forced his way out of the pack and his shot at goal missed to the left. As they say in the classics, "this looked to be a handy point". It was now 5 points the difference. Less then a minute later, the ball was lobbed back to the top of the goal square, Caulfield manage to spoil the possibleMillar mark, but Chris Langdon went to ground, picked up the ball and then, with a check-side kick, put through the goal which put the Sharks one point up.
Caulfield weren't done with yet and launched another attack. They had their chances with some disciplined kicks from deep in the pocket to the top of the square only to be thwarted by some dour defence from Mick Atkins. A draw was on the cards with several boundary throw-ins and Caulfield thumping the ball towards the goals searching for the behind that would put the game into extra time.
In what can be a game of inches, the ball was punched towards the points only to hit the point post and result in another throw in. For what must have seemed like an eternity, the Shark's defence held firm for three long minutes as Caulfield tried every way it could to score either the winning goal, or just a point. The Sharks, through Chris Langdon, were able to clear the ball to the Beach Rd. wing and with the siren sounding a few seconds later, the Sharks had held on to win by the 'barest of margins' - one point.
Chris Langdon was everywhere throughout the game and was subsequently awarded the medal for Best on Ground. Adam Catlin played in his third senior premiership for the Sharks while Luke McNicholas emulated his Dad who had played in the 1970 Premiership (as a 17 year old). Fifteen of the players had come through the Junior club.
A lasting vision of the game was the view from the social club balcony as the final siren sounded. A huge wave of Sharks supporters flooded onto the ground from the Frankston end to surround and congratulate their team in what will go down as one of the truly classic Grand Finals. To come from 45 points down and a scoreless first quarter, to gain the lead only to be behind again in the dying minutes, and to then finally win by a point, was a credit to everyone concerned.
It will go down as one of the classics. Congratulations to coach Jason Mifsud and his coaching staff and the Senior committee on a sensational season.