Oakleigh Chargers 19.12 (126)
Gippsland Power 7.8 (50)
Oakleigh goals: B. Crocker 4, T. Phillips 4, P. Kerr 3, D. Johnstone 2, V. Adduci 2, C. Lane, L. Walker, S. McLarty, T. Duman.
Gippsland goals: T. Papley 5, T. Hobbs, B. Ainsworth.
Oakleigh best: L. Byrne-Jones, M. Wenn, K. Answerth, P. Phillips, D. Beddison, D. Cuningham
Gippsland best: T. Papley, J. Patullo, T. Beck, C. Buykx-Smith, T. Hillier, B. Dessent
The first elimination final of the weekend was billed to be a beauty, with both teams expected to challenge the top teams on their day.
Unfortunately, it turned into a fizzer, with Oakleigh keeping Gippsland at an arm’s length for most of the game, before putting the foot down in the last quarter to power to a 78-point victory.
The first quarter was a teaser for the fans, as Oakleigh led by two points at the first change.
Unfortunately, it never looked like a contest after that, with the Chargers belting away to a 33-point lead at half-time.
While Gippsland battled bravely in the third term to reduce the margin to 29 points, all their fight was gone in the last, when Oakleigh kicked the first few goals and ended the contest.
A nine goals to one final term saw the margin blow out to 13 goals, not indicative of the first three quarters.
Ben Crocker and Patrick Kerr were sensational up forward, booting seven goals between them, while Tom Phillips drifted down to boot four goals.
Michael Wenn was instrumental in the ruck for Oakleigh despite going off with an injury later in the game.
Kade Answeth had his usual output of 28 disposals, three marks and six tackles to lead the side well.
For the Power, Thomas Papley was a lone hand up forward, booting five goals.
In fact, it looked like a Papley versus Crocker contest in the first half, when both players were going tit-for-tat.
Papley kicked the Chargers’ first three goals of the game, with another goal kicker not coming until the third term.
Ben Dessent could hold his head high off half-back, intercepting a number of forward entries, while Nash Holmes was his typical in-and-under self, collecting 23 disposals, four marks and three tackles in the loss.
The big factor in Oakleigh’s win was nullifying the McKay brothers, with Ben and Harry restricted to 11 disposals between them, with only four of them effective.
The loss ended Gippsland’s season, while Oakleigh will go on to face the Murray Bushrangers on the weekend in the semi-final.
The winner of that game will face the North Ballarat Rebels in the preliminary final.
North Ballarat Rebels 16.15 (111)
Geelong Falcons 15.9 (99)
North Ballarat goals: D. Rioli 4, J. Cowan 3, M. Johnston 2, J. Hopper 2, J. Wheelahan, Y. Eades, C. Wellings, C. Byrne, D. Tucker.
Geelong goals: B. Blair 5, C. Curnow 4, H. Kol 3, R. Mathieson 2, W. Sexton.
North Ballarat best: B. Lloyd, J. Cowan, L. Meek, Y. Eades, J. Hopper, B. Simpson
Geelong best: C. Curnow, B. Blair, D. Parish, H. Kershaw, Z. Zdybel, T. Doedee
North Ballarat Rebels have survived an almighty scare from a switched on Geelong Falcons in the first half to salvage a qualifying final win from the depths of despair.
Trailing by 35 points at one stage, the Rebels hit back in the second half, booting 12 goals to six to run over the top of the Falcons by 12 points.
Daniel Rioli had a sensational third term, booting three goals in a row to cut the deficit from five goals to two, before adding his fourth early in the last quarter.
After trailing by 29 points at quarter time and 28 points at half-time, it looked like an upset was on the cards. It proved not to be as the Rebels showed the fighting spirit they have had all year to come-from-behind and book a preliminary final spot.
A one-on-one mark in the goal square late in the match to Jacob Hopper iced the game and when the siren went, there was jubilation all around Ikon Park.
Bottom-ager Lloyd Meek had an impressive 42 hit outs, while Hopper had 20 disposals, three marks, seven tackles and two goals in a fantastic performance.
Rioli’s four goals and Joel Cowan’s three helped the Rebels get back on track, while Yestin Eades provided good run and the hard bodies of Tom Templeton and Connor Byrne proved invaluable in the tight contest.
For the Falcons, Charlie Curnow and Brett Blair were sensational up forward, but Curnow was starved for opportunities after half-time, missing some he normally would kick, finishing with 4.5 for the day.
Top five draft prospect Darcy Parish had a day out feasting off the half-back, with 27 disposals, two marks and seven tackles, while Rhys Mathieson was unbelievable in the last quarter, winning contest after contest. Mathieson finished with 20 disposals, five marks, three tackles and two goals.
Geelong Falcons will now play Eastern Ranges in a semi-final this weekend, while North Ballarat Rebels will rest up for a week to face the winner of the Murray Bushrangers and Oakleigh Chargers semi-final.
Eastern Ranges 17.8 (110)
Calder Cannons 11.10 (76)
Eastern goals: R. Clarke 4, B. Hardwick 3, J. Stephenson 2, J. Collins 2, J. Garner 2, B. Mitchener, T. Jacotine, L. Jeffs, A. Cotte.
Calder goals: K. Brown 4, Z. Wunhym 2, J. James, H. Kerbatieh, C. Moore, J. Flower, D. Tarczon.
Eastern best: B. Batty, D. Clarke, A. Cotte, L. Jeffs, R. Clarke, J. Parsons
Calder best: T. Wallis, J. Flower, C. Moore, B. Allan, J. McDonald, M. Stillman
Calder needed just six wins to finish eighth, while Eastern missed out on the top four after a last round loss.
It was billed to be a reasonably one-sided contest and that is exactly what happened.
While the scores might reflect a 34-point win to the Ranges, the cue was firmly put in the rack at three quarter time.
Eastern opened the match impressively, booting six goals to two, with Blake Hardwick looking dangerous and more importantly, Eastern seemingly having an endless amount of goal kicking options.
Calder’s ruckman Mark Kovacevic was giving silver service to the Cannons onballers, but Eastern had planned for this and had defenders camped at half back, to repel the quick clearance, while their mids ran forward.
The Ranges’ electrifying ball movement saw the Cannons mids caught off guard and Eastern often having multiple options sitting inside 50 lining up for a pass.
By half-time, the margin had extended to 33 points, with Eastern firmly in control.
Many at the ground hoped Calder could make a contest of it in the second half, but it was anything but.
Just 30 minutes after running out, the deficit was 64 points after 5.2 to 0.1 in favour of the Ranges in the third term.
With the game seemingly done and dusted, most sat back and hoped there would be some highlights in the last quarter to wake them up.
Little did they know, 16 minutes in, Calder would have piled on six goals and the margin was 27 points.
With just over 10 minutes left, people were looking at each other thinking ‘surely not’.
Unfortunately for the Cannons, it proved too much as the Ranges, who had eased off too much, got back to their defensive structures, kicked a final icing goal and effectively ended the contest with a tight, contested last 10 minutes.
Bryce Batty was sensational for the Ranges, as was Jordan Gallucci and Ryan Clarke, with the three picking up 28, 21 and 18 disposals between them.
While their numbers had been larger, Gallucci was all polish, while Clarke played forward, booting four goals.
For the Cannons, Karl Brown could be four goals, while Tom Wallis tried hard all day, racking up 26 disposals, four marks and three tackles.
Ben Allan was another worthwhile contributor for the losers, using his run off half-back.
Eastern Ranges will now take on the Geelong Falcons in the semi-final this weekend, while Calder will look to next year.
The winner of the semi-final will take on the Dandenong Stingrays in the preliminary final.
Dandenong Stingrays 10.13 (73)
Murray Bushrangers 10.7 (67)
Dandenong goals: T. Young 4, J. Battle 2, L. Williams, H. Prior, J. Freeman, J. Di Pasquale.
Murray goals: M. Canfield 3, J. Simpkin 2, J. Schache 2, Z. Sproule, L. Smith, H. Payne.
Dandenong best: G. Nyuon, J. Weitering, T. Young, J. Holden, K. Collins, Z. Rouse
Murray best: H. Morrison, C. Oliver, H. Tanner, M. Waite, M. King, H. Payne
The final game of the first week was billed to be the best of the lot, with top two picks Josh Schache and Jacob Weitering set to do battle in the same area.
While Kieran Collins took Schache for most of the game, visitors did get a glance at the pairing on occasions.
It would have pleased the Ikon Park home fans, with one or both expected to land at the Blues next year.
The match lived up to its hype, with a late goal to the Dandenong Stingrays sealing the six-point win.
Prior to an entertaining first quarter, the Stingrays had been in front, but could not quite put the Bushrangers away, leading 3.4 to 1.1 at the first break.
Murray hit back in the second term to cut the deficit to seven points, with some pinpoint shooting, kicking 6.1 to 6.8
Schache had two goals and was solid despite Collins being the ever-reliable defender.
The third quarter gave the fans no indication of who would win the match, with both sides locking down and kicking two goals each, for Dandenong to hold a narrow five-point lead at the last change.
The final term was as good as quarters can possibly get, with Dandenong and Murray going toe-for-toe.
Dandenong had breathing space until the last ten minutes, when Murray hit the front by a point through Max Canfield who won a controversial 50-metre penalty and kicked from the goal square.
At the 23 minute mark, James Freeman marked 40 metres out directly in front, but his shot faded to the right to level the scores.
Then, the highlight of the weekend, with Jake Lovett taking a towering mark and while his mark will be most remembered from that game, his kick hit up James Freeman again in a similar position.
This time, Freeman made no mistake, kicking truly and putting Dandenong up by a goal at the 26 minute mark.
Two minutes later the siren went and Dandenong advanced through to the preliminary final in an epic battle.
Gach Nyuon was sensational for Dandenong with 32 hit-outs to accompany his 19 disposals, seven marks and three tackles, while Lachlan Williams, Zac Rouse and Jack Holden were also impressive.
Jacob Weitering controlled the back-half with Kieran Collins, while Travis Young was the dominant forward with four goals.
For Murray, Clayton Oliver was the best, with 22 disposals, four marks and four tackles, while Harry Morrison, Murray Waite and James Cousins also impressed.
Murray will now take on Oakleigh Chargers in the semi-final next week, while Dandenong will await the winner of the Geelong and Eastern clash in a fortnight.