By David Nagel
Narre Warren will take on Berwick in a mouth-watering South East Football Netball League grand final after a 48-point demolition job of Cranbourne in the preliminary final at Pakenham.
The Magpies, who will be chasing their first premiership since 2013, played a scintillating brand of long and direct football, smashing the Eagles aside with a seven-goal-to-one first quarter.
The Magpies had six on the board in the blink of an eye, with Dylan Quirk, Aaron Wilson, Michael Collins, Luke Cody, Jack Soroczynski, and Cody again, capitalising on a free-flowing conveyance of the Sherrin.
Luke Bee-Hugo finally answered for the Eagles before Collins – who was clearly best afield in the first term – put the icing on the cake with a clinical finish from outside 50. Cranbourne’s resilience is unquestionable, but their expected revival never eventuated – the Magpies building their 38-point lead at quarter time to 43 at the main break before extending to 59 at three-quarter time.
Coach Heath Black was understandably excited after hearing his club’s theme song belted out in front of a packed change rooms after the match.
“The club was definitely challenged on field earlier in the year and to see that many people in the rooms, with that much passion, it just means a lot that we’ve given ourselves a chance to do something special next week,” Black said.
The Magpies turned around a five-goal loss to the Eagles in the qualifying final, a loss that saw Black question whether his team was quick enough to match it with the big boys of the competition. He answered by making some brutal decisions that put his own neck on the chopping block.
“I told a few people in the box that day that we would not be returning with the same side when we played them again…I knew that during the game,” Black explained.
“It was a massive week for me after that, to call my brother (Jace Kelly), Col McNamara, Sam McLean and Troy Mengler all in the space of 45 minutes, it made me dry reach in the toilet, that’s how hard it was for me.
“People don’t see that shit, and that’s what it was, it was really difficult for me. But it came down to what I needed to do as coach, I didn’t want any exterior help, I wanted to do it myself and if it went wrong it would all be on me.”
Collins was absolutely magnificent for the Magpies; Josh Tonna was also superb, while Hayden Stagg and skipper Quirk benefitted greatly from the work of Trent Papworth in the ruck. And Wilson, well he went where no man has gone before, kicking four goals to have the better of Cranbourne champion Brandon Osborne.
But the Magpies had winners all over the park, knocking Cranbourne out of a season before grand final day for the first time since 2010.
Zak Roscoe was lively, and Dillan Bass capped off a great season with some penetrating runs from half back, but that was about it for the Eagles, who miss will star forward Marc Holt for the first two weeks of 2018 after he was reported for striking Quirk.
But for Black, well he’s just excited about the prospect of taking on undefeated Berwick in the big dance.
“That’s what it is, an opportunity, and I’ve been involved in a team that has gone through the year undefeated, later in my career, and the team we played didn’t get within 10 goals during the season and beat us by eight points in the big one,” Black said..
“We won’t tap into that too much, but I do love being the underdog and that’s what we are next week. We can pretty much get on the first tee with our one wood and try and hit it down the centre 400 metres.
“That’s the way we look at it, we won’t be playing a defensive brand of footy, we need to match them at the coal face, that’s where they’re number one, and it comes down to 120 minutes of footy.
“What happens during the home and away season means nothing next week…we both start from scratch.”
And Narre Warren’s A grade netball team will look to make it three-consecutive premierships after ending the brave run of Cranbourne with a 42-25 victory on Saturday.
The Magpies took control of the contest in the first half, with Tayla Shannon (GA) and Chloe Phillips (GS) keeping a steady hand under pressure. The Magpies led by five at quarter time, extending to eight at half time before taking a 10-goal lead into the final term. Phillips cashed in with nine goals in the final quarter as the Magpies ran away with the contest.
The Magpies now face their biggest challenge, overcoming Tooradin-Dalmore who smashed them by 15 goals in last week’s second semi-final.
PRELIMINARY FINAL SCORES
CRANBOURNE 1.0 2.3 4.5 9.10(64)
NARRE WARREN 7.2 9.4 13.10 17.10(112)
Cranbourne Goals: M. Holt 3, R. Jones 2, K. Dickson, L. Bee-Hugo, D. Bass, S. Marusic. Best: Z. Roscoe, L. Bee-Hugo, D. Bass, M. Boland, B. Osborne, G. Osborne.
Narre Warren Goals: A. Wilson 4, D. Kelly 2, M. Collins 2, L. Cody 2, J. Richardson 2, J. Soroczynski, J. Tonna, D. Quirk, S. Scanlon, D. Gawley. Best: J. Tonna, M. Collins, H. Stagg, D. Quirk, T. Papworth, A. Wilson.
A GRADE NETBALL
NARRE WARREN 11 20 30 (42)
CRANBOURNE 6 12 20 (25)