Demons breathe fire into finals series

Mitch Collins (front right) set the tone for the Demons' finals campaign with his incredible toughness. Picture: RUSSELL BENNETT



By Russell Bennett

Kooweerup is on the path to finals redemption following an eye-catching 11-goal win in the opening game of this year’s finals series against famous old rival Nar Nar Goon, 17.11 (113) to 6.10 (46).

The Goon entered the qualifying final at Denhams Road as the highest finisher of the two sides on the ladder, and subsequently had the rights to the home rooms for the day. Kooweerup hadn’t defeated the Goon since Round 3 last year, and Saturday’s warm conditions – seemingly conducive to quick, free-flowing ball movement – appeared to suit the boys from Spencer Street perfectly.

But the Demons made the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition community stand up and take notice with a dominant performance that left the Goon with some serious questions to answer heading into next week.

In from of a bumper crowed under picture-perfect skies on their home deck, any hint of finals fragility or nerves from the home side was obliterated by the way in which they played – and it happened early.

Ben Collins’ already experienced group welcomed back a number of players to only add to the mix yesterday, and it seemed each move Collins and his staff made paid off.
For a club that hasn’t won a senior flag in well in excess of 35 years, and missed out on the finals altogether last season (by percentage), the Demons could have been forgiven for feeling the pressure on Saturday.

But it was Collins’ men who shone brightest in the pressure stakes – with the defensive intensity and mindset they hang their hats on manifesting in a huge tackle count.

Though Mitch Collins’ name isn’t found on the best players list for the Demons, his impact – in front of a near 2000-strong crowd – was arguably the most significant.

After almost certainly snapping his collarbone in a crunching first-quarter collision, he picked himself up and played under duress for the remainder of the contest – continually laying a body, and providing a target.

Even his presence on the ground throughout the clash was crucial from a structural point of view – drawing the attention of one of the Goon’s key defensive presences.

It would have been impossible for his team mates not to draw inspiration from his selflessness – an aspect of his game that was highlighted in the rooms after the clash – that is, the Denhams Road away rooms that were full to the brim with the hometown faithful.

As the game progressed, instead of wilting in the heat, the Demons continued to rise and breath more fire into the clash.

Troy Dolan (in his stopping role), Dom Paynter, Nathan Lieshout, skipper Tim Miller, young forward Luke McMaster (four goals), and the seemingly ageless midfield star Luke Walker were all outstanding for the Demons – with Paynter’s five-bounce run down centre wing, deep inside 50 for a scintillating goal the absolute highlight of the day’s play.

For more on the qualifying final, as well as a full recap of the weekend’s West Gippsland Football Netball Competition action from right across the grades, be sure to pick up a copy of this week’s Berwick-Pakenham Gazette, out first thing Wednesday morning.


Watch below as the Demons belt out a paint-stripping rendition of their song at Denhams Road: