BERWICK has dodged a massive bullet, while Narre Warren has wasted a golden opportunity to make its mark on this year’s South East Football Netball League finals series.
That’s the wash up of the Wickers’ enthralling 14-point, 10.12(72) to 8.10(58), victory over the Magpies in Saturday’s qualifying final at Edwin Flack Reserve.
Berwick showed enormous character to bounce back from a very disappointing first half, a half of footy dominated by Narre Warren who simply refused to let their good work translate to scoreboard pressure.
Trailing by three points at quarter time, the Magpies controlled the Wickers, keeping them scoreless in the second term, but kicked three goals six with the advantage of the breeze. It still left them with a 21-point lead at the main break – but the opportunity had been lost.
Even the normally flat-lined demeanour of Magpies coach Heath Black became mildly animated as he sensed his side had missed the opportunity to bury a dangerous foe.
The Magpies did further damage to their own chances with a gift goal to the Wickers before the bounce of the ball for the start of the third quarter, while a 100-metre penalty presented an easy goal to Jo West a short time later.
They did everything possible to throw this one away, the Magpies.
Berwick’s famous run and carry was nullified by Narre until 20 minutes into the third term. Both real and perceived pressure saw the Wickers make some uncharacteristic mistakes, generally getting in each other’s way and missing what looked to be very simple targets by hand and foot.
But late third quarter goals to two of the best celebrators in the competition, Luke Sheppard and Ben Kearns, had the Wickers up and about and taking some real momentum into the final term.
Berwick coach Rhys Nisbet could sense the momentum swing, despite his side still trailing by five points at three-quarter time.
“Those last 10 minutes they were starting to wear thin boys,” Nisbet said calmly before raising his tone to extract one more effort from his players.
“We’ve got one or two on the bandwagon now, but we all need to jump on, we need to overlap, run, tackle –overlap, run, tackle, and we can get over the line.”
His team roared and simply went out and did what they do best.
Michael Riseley, Ash Smith and Jo West started to run and carry from half back, Riseley spectacular with a gut-busting run along the outer wing while Smith chose a more traditional route, dragging his unfashionable black boots for a three-bounce run through the centre corridor.
Supply simply overwhelmed the Magpies defence in the final term, goals to Andrew Morozoff, Marl Weekes, Kearns and Tim Gunn outing the finishing touches on a very courageous victory.
“Today was really character building,” said Berwick co-captain Michael Harold after the match.
“We were 20 points down at half time, they had the momentum and the chips were down. Even at three quarter time we were still behind kicking into a slight breeze. It was an uncharacteristic win for us, we had to scrap and dig deep and get the game on our terms but it just shows that when we play our brand of footy we can really take it to them. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Harold said the Wickers midfield group had quickly turned its attention to this Saturday’s second semi-final against Cranbourne.
“They’re top notch, probably the best midfield in the competition but, having said that, when it’s our time to go, and we’ve got to spread, I’m backing our leg speed and our fitness to get over the top of them,” Harold said.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge and we’re not going to take a backward step at all. We’ll back ourselves in and we going there to win, there’s no doubt about that.”
Kearns finished with three for the Wickers; and Andrew Hunter matched that figure for the Magpies who had Josh Tonna, Michael Collins, Dylan Quirk and Dean Kelly win plenty of the footy around the ground.
Cranbourne progressed to the reserves second semi-final with a 6.8(44) to 3.6(24) victory over Narre Warren, while Beaconsfield is a step closer to its first thirds’ grand final since 2010 after a 42-point, 10.10(70) to 4.4(28) triumph, also over Narre Warren.
The SEFNL finals series continues today (Sunday) with the elimination finals at Holm Park Reserve. Doveton take on Beaconsfield in the seniors, Pakenham and Tooradin collide in the reserves, while Doveton and Cranbourne will kick-start proceedings in the under 19s.
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