Sea Eagles soar through the gloom

It was hard going for the likes of hard-nosed midfielder Dave Collins in Saturday’s wet conditions. 179814 Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Russell Bennett

Sometimes it’s just about winning ugly.
That’s taking nothing away from Inverloch’s hard-fought win on enemy territory over Kooweerup at Denhams Road on Saturday.
In fact, it’s the total opposite.
The wintry, at times drenching conditions were never going to lend themselves to fast, free-flowing, high scoring footy.
It was always going to be a slog – a hard-fought, physical, brutal slog.
So for the undermanned Sea Eagles to emerge out of that triumphant – by just a goal, 4.8 (32) to 3.8 (26) – by fighting to the death, had to please coach Ben Soumilas no end.
By the end of the season, it won’t matter how Saturday’s contest was won – but just that the four points were clinched away from home.
Inverloch was forced into a series of changes from their first-up, 22-point win over Cora Lynn in the grand final rematch.
Will Hetherington, Clint McCaughan, Josh Purcell and Dylan Clark were all forced omissions through injury on Saturday, but the Demons weren’t exactly at full-strength either – with contested ball-winning bull Ben Kerrigan and speedster Dom Paynter both out.
Neither side would be looking for excuses.
Instead, for much of the 32-minute final quarter, the ball was locked in Kooweerup’s forward half and all they could add to their three-quarter time score was three behinds. Inverloch didn’t score in the last, and still held on.
Though Saturday was far from a high-scoring affair, it was one with telling turns of momentum.
Three goals in the dying minutes of the third to Inverloch – the first to Tom Wyatt, followed by others to Shem Hawking and Daniel Reid – gave the Sea Eagles a vital nine-point advantage with just a quarter to play.
Key defender Michael Eales, hard-nut midfielder Corey Casey (playing through a painful elbow injury), the smooth-moving Shem Hawking, and young guns Lachie Scott and Ryan Sparkes were all vital for the visitors, while the Demons were led well by two players at contrasting ends of the spectrum when it comes to their senior careers – vice captain Nathan Voss, and tireless key defender Craig Dyker. Skipper Tim Miller also toiled hard right from the outset, as did the likes of big man Daniel Calteri, Troy Dolan and Caleb Milojevic. Their side was superb for the bulk of the contest, except for one or two key, telling stages.
As a clear indicator of the nature of the game, Scott, Casey, and Andy Soumilas combined for 32 tackles between the three of them alone.
“I went in to see the boys before the game and said I wish we had a full side in dry conditions and the ground would have been nice, and all the boys looked at me and I said ‘What a load of crap! Who’d be thinking about all of that?’,” Ben Soumilas said after the contest.
“I just told the boys we were going to set ourselves for a tough day at the office and it felt like they did it.
“Having guys out was no excuse. If we’d have lost, there would have been heaps of people saying we had four out, but no. If it’s a final, you’re eliminated. That’s it.”
For Soumilas and his boys, all that mattered was the win.
“To win against a challenger, a top contender, is just critical – it’s so good for us,” he said.
“You’ve just got to trap it (the ball) in there and wait and see if you can break one (a goal) free in those conditions but I think it’s a really good win because they’ve obviously set themselves to be one of the top sides and I’m not trying to be arrogant but I’ll make the assumption that we are going to be a top side too, so if they’re going to try and challenge for one of the top spots, I’d hope we’re in the top three.
“That’s a great win for us.”

1.2 2.4 3.5 3.8 (26)
1.2 1.5 4.8 4.8 (32)
GOALS: A. Giuliano 2, J. Smith.
BEST: N. Voss, C. Dyker, T. Dolan, C. Milojevic, T. Miller, D. Calteri.
GOALS: T. Wyatt, T. Mahoney, S. Hawking, D. Reid.
BEST: M. Eales, C. Casey, R. Sparkes, C. McKenzie, L. Scott, S. Hawking.