Photo: Evette Johnson
Eastern Ranges were announced the premiers not long after 1:00 pm on Sunday afternoon. For Eastern’s coach Darren Bewick and the team who had slaved away for just under 12 months (more for some), they had finally earned the right to celebrate. It would be ironic that the largest margin of the season would come in what was supposed to be the toughest contest. The final margin was a whopping 112 points in a one-sided blitz that saw Eastern pile on the goals after quarter time and were devastatingly clinical.
Led by captain Ben Cavarra who won the medal for best on ground, Eastern Ranges never looked like losing after opening up an eight goal half time lead. At the same time they had reduced Dandenong to a measly 1.7.13 at the half, of which may have been even less had Clayton McCartney not recovered from kicking it into the man on the mark and still kicking the only goal of the half.
Along with Cavarra, Jordan Walker and Connor O’Sullivan were impressive while Tom Boyd had 17 sets of recruiters wondering if there was a way to trade for that number one pick. Eastern Ranges played the best match they had played all season and ran riot over the Stingrays who looked a shadow of the team that had their opposition’s measure just three weeks ago.
With Boyd and Mitch Honeychurch returning from injury, there were question marks over their fitness, but both finished with multiple goals and between them, they outscored the Stingrays. Cavarra was clearly the man of the match with 30 disposals, 19 handball receives, two marks and three tackles. Great players stand up when the game is in the balance and Cavarra had 19 first half disposals.
Unfortunately for the neutral portion of the crowd, the heat had gone out of the game as early as the second quarter with Eastern Ranges beating them all over the ground. Many feared the margin would exceed three figures and that’s exactly what happened. It was a battle of one team who were rolling down the hill to victory against a side that had lost all hope by half time. When it looked like it couldn’t get any uglier, the game found a way. Eastern Ranges had 13 individual goal scorers with players who had spent time in defence such as Sam Gibson and Jordan Walker getting on the scoresheet.
It’s hard to find many positives for Dandenong. The Stingrays were blown out of the water after quarter time and while the likes of Billy Hartung, Daniel Capiron and James Harmes could hold their heads high, it was not a match that many Stingrays would be proud of. After a tense opening stanza where Clayton McCartney goaled to keep them alive, it was all Eastern Ranges. They didn’t goal until Billy Hartung strung two goals in a row together in the third as the Stingrays pushed the goal sneak forward in a bid to regain some life in the match. It was only a brief murmur as Eastern Ranges went on to continue to hammer them into the ground. It was a dirty day for the Stingrays, but for Eastern Ranges, it will be the most memorable day in their football lives until they can reach the penultimate prize in the AFL.
Eastern Ranges 24.8 (152) defeated Dandenong Stingrays 5.10 (40)
Eastern Ranges goals: Boyd (4), Honeychurch (3), Welsh (3), Traynor (3), Apeness (2), Petracca (2), Keedle, O’Sullivan, Gibson, Walker, Hannon, Crowe, Evans.
Dandenong Stingrays goals: Hartung (2), McCartney, Scott, Rennie.
Eastern Ranges best: Cavarra, Welsh, O’Sullivan, Walker, Fisher, Bond
Dandenong Stingrays best: Capiron, Hartung, Gawley, Bastinac, Kempster, Wilson