CRANBOURNE has proved itself to be the ‘Superman’ of the South East Football Netball League after a devastating first half led to a 34-point victory over Berwick in Saturday’s second semi-final at Pakenham.
And the only form of kryptonite that may be able to deprive the Eagles of their first premiership win since 2011 is, ironically, one of their greatest strengths, their fitness, with several players succumbing to cramp in the final quarter of a high-paced affair.
The Eagles –whose best football is clearly the best in the competition right now- looked down and out protecting a big lead in the final quarter, which brings into question their preparation coming off a two-week break.
It’s the same time-frame they now have to prepare for their grand final appearance on Saturday 19 September at Starling Road.
The loss of defender Stuart Morrish (knee), after just four minutes, didn’t help their cause, but that last quarter side-show, where Max Gearon, Glenn Osborne, Jordan Bertrand, Ryan Jones (ankle), Anthony Vella and Michael Boland all succumbed to fatigue or injury, well it shows just how fragile a firm grip on a premiership cup can be.
“Any team worries about blokes going down, but I think it’s just the circumstances of Stuey Morrish going down early and our backs having to cover for that loss,” Cranbourne coach Simon Goosey said after the match.
“Something had to give throughout the day, and I suppose in the end we could have managed that back half a little bit better. It was a funny ending but, hey we’ve won, we’ve done what we came here to do, we’re through to a grand final and we’ve got two weeks to prepare and get it right.”
Goosey was delighted with his side’s first-half performance.
“We’ve probably been slow starters this year, and then worked our way into games in second halves, but I think the effort the boys put into the first half showed how much they wanted to win today,” he said.
“They really dug deep and you could see they wanted to play for each other today. It was full of character and I was really proud of the way they dug deep and got the job done in the end.”
Before the fatigue set in, the Eagles really did stamp their class on one of the biggest days of the season.
They raced to a 37-point lead at quarter time, extended that to an even 10 goals early in the third, before the Wickers mounted a comeback. Berwick was never a realistic chance of winning but eight of nine goals, between the 15-minute mark of the third quarter to the 18-minute mark of the last, will at least see it take some confidence into next week’s cut-throat preliminary final at Beaconsfield.
Mat Fletcher and Gearon were superb for the Eagles through the midfield, while Marc Holt further enhanced his big-game reputation with a seven-goal haul. Vella and Curtis Barker chipped in with two apiece, while Boland, Brandon Osborne and Michael Theodoridis were other solid contributors.
Berwick will be hugely disappointed, not just with its non-competitiveness in the first 20 minutes of play but with its inability to capitalise when it did gain some ascendency.
Madi Andrews never stopped trying in the middle, while Ben Kearns and Brody Connelly were two of the Wickers best, but also two of the main offenders on a woefully inaccurate day in front of the big sticks. Between Kearns and Connelly…they hit the post a remarkable five times for the afternoon.
Mitch Johnson was well held early but kicked four in the second half for the Wickers.
CRANBOURNE 8.1 12.3 15.7 17.13(115)
BERWICK 1.6 2.11 6.13 11.15(81)
Cranbourne Goals: M. Holt 7, A. Vella 2, C. Barker 2.
Best: M. Fletcher, M. Holt, A. Vella, M. Theodoridis, M. Gearon, L. Bee-Hugo
Berwick Goals: M. Johnson 4, B. Connelly 2, L. Nelson 2. Best: M. Andrews. B. Kearns, B. Connelly.