The Hampton Rovers Reserves have booked their spot in the 2018 Grand Final following a 13-point victory over West Brunswick at Trevor Barker Oval on Saturday.
With sunny conditions prevailing at the bounce it was welcome to spring! The talking point was that with West Brunswick having no senior team in the finals, it gave them greater depth to choose from to bolster their chances. The Rovers meanwhile still had a very healthy list to choose from, so it was another hard week for selectors.
The first quarter was a game of two halves. The Rovers were dominant from the first bounce, with a tap by Miles to Zaina who sprinted through the middle to deliver into the forward line for a point. What a start it would have been if it was a goal. Never-the-less, it was then trapped forward for a while for another point then finally a goal by new goal sneak Murnane in the goal square. Again, straight out the middle and shortly after Jacko snapped truly for the Rovers second.
With Miles taking good pack marks and Tate using pack bursting strength on top, the Rovers were in control early on. Merlo off the interchange bench took a good mark across half back and launched a long kick to Duddy who marked strongly then with a good long pass hit a hard leading CJ on the chest who marked then converted the first set shot for goal. 12 & a half minutes in and it was how far the Rovers? Then WB started to get some run and put the pressure back on the Rovers across the mids and backs. They got their first goal from a soft free at the 15 minute mark and this seemed to inspire them as they then controlled much of the play for the next 10 minutes but the Rovers backs were able to limit the damage to two more points. Rory and Broadstock both taking some great marks.
The 2nd quarter was well set up for a battle. It was WB turn to kick with a 1-2 goal breeze while the Rovers were two goals up. It really developed into contested finals footy – lots of tackles and congested play which called for frequent ball ups. Both sides seeming to elect to go wide and hence also frequent out of bounds ball ups. The Rovers finally managed to get clear across the grandstand wing where Jacko on the end of it gave off a great pass to Merlo who converted for a goal from a set shot. This was the only major for the quarter with Rovers adding two behinds and WB a little unlucky to only score 3 behinds. In the conditions it was surprising the scoring wasn’t higher, but backlines of both sides really played well to limit opportunities. The Rovers by 18 points at half time when Mother Nature decided – enough of the spring weather let’s bring in some drizzly freezing weather – as it is Melbourne after all!
The 3rd quarter started like it was being played on a skating rink with a football shaped ball of wet soap. Stephen Bradbury would have been in his element. Certainly, Jewell called on his inner Bradbury and was dominant with intercepts across half back. But in many cases the players would pick up the ball only for it to slip out in a tackle, be picked up by an opponent who would lose control in a tackle and repeat and repeat. Marking was at a premium and credit to a WB forward who found the right spot to hold his mark deep forward and kick the only goal for the quarter. The wind had dropped off a bit so the advantage was pretty much negated by the wet. WB with 1.3 (and Rovers 0.2) certainly were more convincing and perhaps that was because the Rovers were trying to finesse it too much. 11 point margin to the Rovers but WB to have the slight wind advantage in the last quarter.
At the three quarter time break, the Coach said stop trying to be cute and stop finessing. Just keep moving it forward with force! A wise man. And so the point fest continued. WB got the first and the Rovers the 2nd, 3rd and 4th! Both teams just going hard to keep slugging away and getting it forward as best as they could as the wet drizzle continued to make efficient team work next to impossible. Finally, it paid off for the Rovers when a ball hacked forward into the goal square was marked by CJ for a mark when he cleverly edged out his opponent, and goaled.
This gave the Rovers some breathing space but WB didn’t give up. They brought some tension back into the game with a good goal at the 17 minute mark. But time ran out and the Rovers held firm running out 13-point winners.
A gutsy win with special mentions to TJ, Daly, Clarke and Ballard for getting the ball out of the congested play and Melnjak for poise and skill across the back. Jewell as usual great across the back for four quarters and Zaina’s and Tates pack bursting runs. Also, Miles’ great ruck work and Duddy’s cool head and solid marks.
A good solid final win in very tough conditions to set up next week’s Grand Final against Ormond at Trevor Barker Oval on Saturday.
HAMPTON ROVERS 3.2 4.4 4.6 5.11 (41)
WEST BRUNSWICK 1.1 1.4 2.7 3.10 (28)
Goal Kickers: C. Jones 2, N. Jackson, N. Murnane, D. Merlo
Best Players: N. Jewell, J. Zaina, J. Melnjak, T. Jones, C. Tate, D. Ballard
Thanks to our helpers: Jason Cave for interchange duties, the Trainers, Ken Duddy for Team Manager duties, Gary Hetherington for timekeeping, Stan Oldfield for scoreboard operation, Matthew Bright for runner duties, Sam Cougan and Adrian Hug for running water.