The Seniors were again the underdogs going into the first semi-final against Templestowe, but the confidence was high after a hard fought win the week before. The only change this week was Regan Davis out injured and replaced by Joel Merrett. The team was greeted by strong windy conditions for the second week that would play some part in the game. Co-Captain Dylan Sverns won the toss and chose to kick with the wind in the first quarter – a decision that would prove vital in the outcome of the match! With a sea of Heathmont Jets blue and yellow beanies around the ground, the supporters were out in force to urge on their team for another win and a spot in the Preliminary Final.
The team made good use of the wind in the first quarter and a good mark from Ben Abbruzzese saw the Jets score their first goal, although Templestowe goaled quickly to even the score. It was finals pressure football at its best, with strong tackles, stoppages and strong defensive play. Rob Savory was in amongst it too, providing another option down forward and a kick from Rob found Ben again for our second goal of the quarter. The ball was finding its way down to our forward line and another snap by Ben towards the end of the quarter saw the team take in a 15 point lead at the first break.
Against the wind in the second it was by points that we edged further in front. Templestowe kicked the first goal by either side half way through the quarter and then followed up with the next to make it a three point ball game. A great passage of play from the centre saw the ball down our forward line and amongst a flurry of players Kev managed to get his hands on it and snap truly! The Jets just kept pushing the ball towards our forward line, and Chris Colombo, who appeared to be everywhere, was close enough to the goals to slot it through for our second for the quarter and we took in a 13 point lead at the main break.
All the team were working hard; Rourkie, Sinders and English through the centre, Monkey and Chris in the ruck, Jarrod Spurrell was again marking everything that came his way. The backline was holding firm with Dylan controlling the last line of defence, Ali Knudsen making sure nothing got past him, Jake Sherriff fisting ball after ball away from the forwards or taking that strong mark, Al Pettigrew running out of defence. Aaron Walton marking strongly around the ground too, with Jono in and under, Jack Hendricks in the thick of things along with Ryan Young. So another half to go!
The wind decided to change direction quite a few times in the third quarter so what advantage we had seemed to evaporate, as again it was points on the board not goals and the pressure was intense. Templestowe also managed to find the goals with one for the quarter while we went goalless but still with an eight point lead going into the last.
So our season was riding on this last quarter, and the intensity lifted a notch on both sides. It was a quarter of neutral tackles, ball stoppages and missed goals. Neither side could make an impression on the scoreboard early and both defences were holding strong. A goal to the opposition saw the lead drop to two points and the pressure lift to another level – especially to the supporters around the ground. Ryan Young managed to mark the ball in our forward fifty and kicked it long towards the goal, it went through a flurry of hands and a fallen goal umpire - the crowd held its breath waiting on the umpire’s decision – a goal!!! And a bit of breathing space late into the quarter. A stoppage in play due to injury saw minutes added to the clock and once it had resumed again Templestowe scored and now it was down to a four point lead and still 15 minutes to go. The supporters were watching the clock, as well as the play, which seemed to be entirely in Templestowe’s forward line late in the last. It was stoppage after stoppage, tackle after tackle, heart stopping and nail biting ‘stuff’ in those last minutes of the game. The roar from the Jets supporters could be heard far and wide when the siren finally rang, and the fans erupted in relief and excitement – the song was sung loud and proud and now the Jets move in to their first Preliminary Final in Division 3 and against fierce rivals Ringwood next week.
The Coach was proud of the players, they had to grind out the match, and their persistence was fantastic, they gave nothing away around the stoppages. They now know they can play on the big stage in difficult conditions. A great team effort. It was hard to single out players but he made mention of English’s efforts in the first and last quarters, Ali Knudsen’s four quarter performance also Rob Savory’s. Tom Rourke’s big effort around the centre and the ever reliable Dylan Sverns down back, who’s spoiling in the finals series has been fantastic, the run of Colombo, and the forward power of Ben Abbruzzese who’s first quarter goals set up the match and Ryan Young’s much needed goal in the last. Again for the second week running Jarrod Spurrell was in amongst it when it counted. Everyone played their part and we have nothing to lose – so let’s keep it going! Bring on Ringwood!!
Goal Kickers: B. Abbruzzese 3, K. Clark, R. Young, C. Colombo
Best Players: J. Spurrell, R. Savory, B. English , B. Abbruzzese, A. Knudsen, D. Sverns
Back in Round 10 was the only time that we played Park Orchards in the Home and Away season, and we were beaten on a day that we were certainly not at our best. The second Semi Final was an opportunity for the Jets to test how far we had improved since then. Coach Gary Burleigh gave a stirring speech before the game – boys, remember not to sit too close to the Coach if he has a whiteboard marker in his hand during the pre-game!
The intensity was full on right from the start, and the Jets showed desperation at the last line of defence to prevent early scores from Park Orchards. Fin Brown worked hard up the ground and repeatedly presented as a key target. Jackson Scotti backed himself to kick a goal from a tough angle, and threaded it calmly to get the Jets on the way. Unfortunately Jack Lacey’s game was over early with a shoulder injury, so we were down to five on the bench as Jack went off for scans. Wade Van Leeuwen celebrated after our second goal, and the Jets took a seven point margin into quarter time.
In a tough finals game the pressure acts were always going to be important, and great examples of this in the second term were Daniel George’s desperate smother of an oppo shot on goal, Jack McDonald’s fierce tackling, and both Brent Honey and Reuben Brown’s golden-fist spoiling in contested marking situations. Trey Braione was elusive in the traffic, and Billy Norris displayed his great ability to get to the right spots to rove a pack and snap our third goal. Fin Brown kicked our fourth after a great passage of clean possessions from Wade to Josh Kral, to Connor Weightman then Fin. Our effective transition play enabled the Jets to have a 13 point lead at the long break.
The third term saw one of the bravest acts of the day as Lachie Purkis ran back with the flight of the ball to effect a great spoil in a marking contest across half back. Ben Irvine banged the ball forward to Jackson Scotti who’s roving goal made him our only multiple goal scorer for the game. Relentless intensity from the Jets included monster tackles from Connor Van Der Wal and Ryan Burleigh, and terrific wins when one on two (or three) to Joel Gosbell and Jack McDonald. Lachie Phelan kicked the Jets’ sixth goal after a ruck tap into the square. We dominated the quarter with nine more inside 50’s, but didn’t capitalise on the scoreboard, so our 27 point lead at the last change could have been higher.
The wind picked up during the break, meaning that we would be kicking into a howler for the last quarter. Park Orchards threw everything at us, including kicking two goals early in the term to narrow the margin to just under two goals. The Jets got numbers to the contests but with the oppo having repeat inside 50’s our backs were under the hammer. The last 15 minutes seemed to go forever, but when the siren went the Jets prevailed by ten points to book a ticket to the Grand Final on 17th September! The Jets’ tackle count for the game was a whopping 56, including 15 in the first and 17 in the third. Cam Evans and Reuben Brown dominated the ruck contests through the day, which led to our on ballers winning the clearance count. The defenders worked as a coordinated unit, and the support and instructions given to each other were as good as we have seen all year. Well done from all the supporters – now prepare well for the main event!
This week’s thanks go out to our passionate, dedicated coaching group, led by Gary Burleigh. We all know that Gary has had a long career in footy, working at the elite level with several AFL clubs. He has a great ability to connect with the boys to pass on this experience, and to prepare the team in the most professional way possible. Gary invests an enormous amount of time and energy into the team, and enjoys nothing more than helping individuals develop and guiding the team to be a strong cohesive unit. The values that the players have stood by have been largely developed by themselves, but they have been guided by Gary in a way that has led them to make very good decisions throughout the two years that he has been at the helm. Gary’s support staff has been extensive, and we have been very fortunate to have so many people with great footy-brains involved this year. Craig Rutley has been a successful Coach in his own right at multiple clubs, and as the backline coach Craig has developed a defensive unit so tight that they have had an average of less than 25 points kicked against them per game. Craig has really invested in the players, and in particular the leadership group who he has mentored this year. Brad McDonald guided the forward line to accumulate 2207 points in the Home and Away season – significantly more than any other senior team in the league. Many players have rolled through the forward structure, and they have all known the role to play because of Brad’s wise words and positive mindset. Both Mitch Van Koll and Michael Tolliday have worked their magic with the competitive running machine that is our midfield. Week after week Mitch and Michael have coached the players to win taps, clearances, run the ball out of defence, pumped it into attack, and hit the scoreboard themselves. Darren McNeil is a real clubman who has made the tough job of Board-man look easy, but with big numbers on the bench most weeks he worked feverishly to manage rotations and keep the players fresh. Guido Van Der Wal has added a new coaching dimension this year as our Opposition Coach. Guido has paid close attention to our opposition during games and provided analysis, insight and his own coaching experience to help the Jets succeed in 2017. He has even given up several Saturdays to go to other games so that we know more about key teams who we had coming up during the season. The commitment of this group is more admirable given that Craig, Mitch, Michael and Darren did not have a family member in the team. Thank you all very much guys.
But before I finish – behind every great man is a great woman, and these coaches have been able to do such a fantastic job because of the enormous support that they have had from their wives. So we collectively thank Lisa Burleigh, Jenny Rutley, Julie McDonald, Julie McNeil, Sarah Tolliday, Ann Irvine, and Liz Honey.
Park Orchards 4.10-34
Goal Kickers: J. Scotti 2, L. Phelan, F. Brown, B. Norris, W. Van Leeuwen
Best Players: W. Van Leeuwen, J. McDonald, C. Van Der Wal, B. Honey, R. Burleigh, J. Robertson