Finals shock as Bombers crash

Romsey defender Angus Storey attempts to mark over a Diggers Rest opponent in the qualifying final on Saturday. Photo: Bill West

Wallan delivered a monumental shock by comprehensively knocking strong premiership fancy Riddell out of the 2019 finals series on Sunday.
While reigning premiers Diggers Rest clinically defeated Romsey in the qualifying final on Saturday, it was Sunday’s boilover 45-point victory by the Magpies that threw a whole new complexion over the finals battle.
Meanwhile, third-placed Rupertswood purred to victory by 50 points over sixth-placed Macedon in the other elimination final on Sunday, racing to a 10 goals to three half-time advantage.
Thus this weekend’s semi-finals sees Romsey clash with Wallan in a sudden death knockout encounter, and Diggers Rest locking horns with Rupertswood for a spot straight into the grand final.
Romsey’s ground was in fine order for the Saturday and Sunday matches, and while Redbacks’ supporters had been hoping the home ground advantage may swing things in their favour, the vastly experienced Diggers Rest virtually wrapped up the low-scoring match in the first quarter by restricting the home side to a solitary point when they had the advantage of a four-goal northerly wind blowing straight down the ground.
But back to Sunday at Romsey: Riddell was entitled to be rated a hot favourite against on form, with nine wins from the last 10 matches to their credit.
In round five on May 11 Riddell thrashed the Magpies 21.12 to 9.8, and in the return bout on August 10, an undermanned Bombers won 12.6 to 5.10 at Magpieland.
That alone was sufficient to convince most footy followers – apart from Wallan loyalists – that Riddell would take the points. They were in for a big surprise and Wallan seized the initiative from the first bounce and never looked like losing.
Second term
James Nolan won the first centre square hit-out, but the Magpies rushed the ball forward and had a confidence-boosting goal on the board inside 30 seconds.
Speed, confidence and good use of the ball produced five first quarter goals for the Magpies, but it was the second term in which the game was won and lost.
Riddell’s co-coaches Justin Belleville and Jamie Elliott were forced to make positional moves when skilful forward Matt Perri (92 goals in home and away games) began to run riot.
Wallan had too many players in form, and the absence of injured topliners Nathan Fowler and Andrew Saladino did not deter the Magpies at all as they were too fast, and had various avenues to goal.
A 34-point half-time advantage was pruned to 15 as Riddell rallied in the third quarter, but the Magpies dominated the last quarter by kicking 5.8 to 1.2 in an extraordinary confidence boost for the second semi-final against Romsey.
Elusive Corey Grindlay and Perri led the way with four goals apiece, while in-form Dylan Tarczon kicked five for Riddell, and Ethan Foreman three.
The Magpies had to ability to win plenty of the ball, and Riddell’s blend of young and experienced players simply could not stem the tide.
All out
In fact the Bombers had a weekend they could not have dreamed about, with their five teams (three football, two netball) all being eliminated. Now it’s a case of stick together for 2020 at Bomberland.
Full marks to Wallan coach David Nolan and the Magpie leaders for tuning their side up for a big effort, irrespective of the home and away game results between the same two sides.
Scoring stifled
Saturday’s qualifying final at Romsey saw the Redbacks unable to make use of the strong wind advantage, with the ball see-sawing backwards and forwards between the two half-back lines for much of the term.
The home side went into the final without injured prime movers in Jayden Caruana and Chris Burkett, and speedster Aaron Paterson (suspended). Big ruckman Sean Egan was sidelined for the Burras through injury.
The Redbacks needed goals, and the Burras worked out how to shut them down. The only score for the quarter by either side came when tall forward Ben Way marked close to goals but missed the set shot for Romsey.
Redbacks’ coach Corey O’Sullivan put a positive spin on his side’s aggression and defensive qualities at quarter time, but veteran Cam McCabe soon found space twice and kicked two angled goals for the Burras early in the second term.
A difference of 19 points at the long interval meant Romsey needed a prolific scoring third quarter; it did not happen as Diggers Rest managed to use the ball to advantage and keep the ball low when firing for goal.
Diggers Rest do not rely on any one player for dominance, and usually “step up” up a notch come finals times.
“I’m pretty happy with that,” Diggers Rest playing coach Jamie Lobb said after the match.
Lobb said it was a good performance, and his side is looking forward to meeting Rupertswood after beating the Sharks twice in the home and away rounds.
Romsey certainly fought the game out, and this week will prepare positively for the do-or-die clash with Wallan. The two sides met on May 29 with much of the ground under water, and the Magpies won easily, but that will have no bearing as conditions this time will be entirely different.
Quick start
Macedon’s hopes of upsetting Rupertswood vanished in the opening minutes of the elimination final at Clarke Oval in Sunbury.
The Sharks scored three goals in less than two minutes very early in the first quarter; Karl Staudt put one of the board for the Cats but the Sharks had all the answers with a strong lineup on the field. The return of Sean Hetherington from VFL ranks has lifted the side.
Big ruckman Jamie Putt was influential, and the Sharks used the ball well to have the game wrapped up by half-time.
Topliner Daniel Markworth tried hard to lift the Cats and showed his class with four goals and plenty of possessions, but the Sharks looked ominous with deadly kicking which yielded 18.7.
They will not find it so easy against Diggers Rest.