Hampton Rovers held off Old Mentonians by three points at the Boss on Saturday to fend off relegation and ensure a return to Premier C in 2020.
It was D-Day at Boss James Reserve, a big crowd was on hand including over 130 at the final Home Game Luncheon of the year, and the Rovers got off to the best possible start with a goal within 10 second of the first siren! Captain Christian Carnovale received the tap from Josh Broadley, out of the middle and kicked from 60 metres, with the ball bouncing through for the first major of the game.
Hampton had the strong wind in the first term and if anything was going to give the boys the confidence, that should have been it. Not to be however, while Cam Hetherington was offering a target up forward and kicking goals, the Rovers just didn’t take advantage of the wind, and even let Old Mentonians in for a couple of easy goals so that the quarter time scoreboard showed while Hampton had 9 scoring shots to 3, scores were level.
Danny Corp was again prominent, enjoying the freedom of playing further up the ground, Prosser was hard around the packs, Ryan Fogarty was putting his body in and getting the ball, but overall the team just didn’t take their opportunities in front of goal.
In the second term, the boys started well and seemed to have more of the play, but again just weren’t scoring. On the other hand, the visitors kicked 6.2 for the quarter, four of those goals in the final minutes of the term that opened up a seemingly match winning 25-point lead. Strangely, despite Old Mentonians dominance, the Rovers had the same number of scoring shots.
At the main break, coach Anthony Quon highlighted that despite the quarter, his chargers were still in the game, had the wind in the third quarter and if they could put early scores on the board, the opposition would crumble. Again, Hamtpon was inaccurate, not just in kicking for goal, but in the lead ups. Many of the inside 50s didn’t even register a score. Joel Melnjak was continuing his great form down back and with Harry Crisp, until he went into the midfield, were on top of their opponents. Josh Broadley continued his stellar year in the ruck, he just keeps on jumping and his quickness at ground level is excellent for a big man.
At the final break, the Rovers were 16 points down and against a strong northerly in the last. Up against it was an understatement! The coach in one of his most inspired addresses for the year, stressed how we had battled against the odds all year, that the core group had been training since November last year and that we didn’t deserve to lose this critical game for the Rovers in 2019.
The boys answered the call. Carnovale was quickly on the scoreboard with a long shot, followed soon after as Sam Bradford snapped from the square to bring the margin back to three points. While Old Mentonians scored next, the Rovers were on top and when Danny Corp marked at 30m, the supporters were confident that he wouldn’t miss. He did and so it was left to Rich Atkins a couple of minutes later to take the strong mark on the 50m line and he judged the wind beautifully to split the middle. Hampton had lifted all around the ground, Scotty Ebbott was gaining the clearances in the middle, Broadley was hard in the ruck, Ben Kneebush and Corey Jones were doing the one-percenters that are so important in today’s footy. At the 19-minute mark, Sam Bradford marked, played on and snapped his third and the Rovers were three points up.
Reminiscent of last year’s Grand Final, the game was stopped when Tim Jones, from what appeared to be an innocuous incident, went down and the crowd was hushed as he slowly regained his composure and feet and went off nursing what appeared to be a serious eye injury and a trip to hospital. When the game resumed, Rovers supporters were more on edge. The opposition had a chance to regroup, we’d kicked four goals to their one for the quarter at that stage and they had the strong wind towards the David Street end.
The final 15 minutes was a real battle, with the ball see-sawing from one end of the ground to the other. Neither side scoring but neither giving in. The play continued as the scoreboard ticked over 32 minutes and as the ‘one minute to go’ call went out, the visitors cleared from Hampton’s forward line to the centre and then the long ball out wide to the open spaces. Oscar Roberts was leading the chase to the bouncing ball and he picked it up cleanly, took a bounce and booted the ball. Despite being marked by the opposition, it was too little too late and the siren sounded, confirming an inspirational Rovers win and Premier C action locked in for 2020.
The clubrooms were packed after the game. A number of former players called it one of the best wins by the Rovers after holding the opposition to a goal in the last quarter and kicking four ourselves against what must have been at least a four-goal wind. After the match the coach was effusive in his compliments to his players, particularly the way they didn’t give-in and fought it out to the end. He thanked his assistant coaches, statisticians, runner and all around the club for their support during the year. A positive way to finish what has been a difficult season at times and it was party time at the Boss!
HAMPTON ROVERS 3.6 4.7 7.10 11.12 (78)
OLD MENTONIANS 3.0 9.2 11.2 12.3 (75)
Goal Kickers: C. Hetherington 3, C. Carnovale 3, S. Bradford 3, T. Jones, R. Atkins
Best Players: C. Carnovale, J. Prosser, J. Broadley, D. Corp, J. Melnjak, S. Bradford
While it’s season-over for the Seniors, there is Finals action this coming weekend for the Reserves and Under 19’s with a double-header at Trevor Barker Oval on Sunday from 9:30am.
Don’t forget two big upcoming events: Domino Luncheon on Friday 13th September at the club and Senior Presentation Night on Friday 11th October at Sandy by the Bay.