Premier Bloods withstand mighty scare

Olinda''s Peri Stewart and Alice Paget embrace after winning the Premier A Grade grand final 198316 Picture: ROB CAREW

By Romy Stephens

As weather conditions took a blustery turn for the Premier Division grand final, it was Olinda Ferny Creek who rained on Cranbourne’s parade ﹘ but only just.

It’s fair to say the Eagles saved their best game for last, as they took it up to the Bloods for the entire four quarters during the final game of the season at Toomuc Reserve.

But the biggest upset of the season wasn’t to be, as the Bloods came home with a 31-28 win and sealed their third premiership in a row.

After a sunny start to the morning, storm clouds rolled over just before the game and sent pelting rain down.

The rain, accompanied by strong winds, clearly disrupted the Bloods early as they were unable to send clean lobs into tall goal shooter Peri Stewart.

Meanwhile, Cranbourne defender and league best and fairest Tara Cecil wreaked havoc in defence as she not only scrapped for intercepts and tips but also threw some lovely long bombs into the Eagles’ shooters.

But it was the poise of the Bloods that saw them still manage to edge in front and take a six-goal lead into half-time.

During the second half, the Eagles’ defence continued to do everything it could to eliminate their oppositions clear height-advantage.

But the Bloods’ experienced midcourt ﹘ led by the likes of best-on-court Alice Paget, Krista Tomlinson and Madison Taylor ﹘ ensured defensive turnovers were continuously capitalised on.

Cranbourne fought back bravely during the final quarter but in the end, failed to take advantage of numerous opportunities and couldn’t overrun the Bloods’ experience.

Olinda head coach Tim Smith said he was worried during the game due to the poor conditions and such a determined opponent.

“It was more a feeling of relief. Cranbourne really took it to us,” he said.

“We traditionally haven’t played well in the wet and that’s over the last couple of years. We’ve been a team that’s been able to really break fast on transition and convert.

“That was our lowest score that we’ve had almost for two years and that’s because Cranbourne played well.

“They had hands over and they contested every ball. They were tough competition, I was worried.”

The Bloods’ goal attack Elly Stewart said she was proud the team battled through its toughest game all year.

“That court was one of the wettest I’ve ever played on, that water did not disperse at all so it was just about being smart,” she said.

“I’m so proud to know that we were able to win in a close situation when we hadn’t had such a close game all season.

“It was really nice to know that we dug deep and were there for each other when we needed to be.”

Despite getting the win in Premier Division, it didn’t seem to be Olinda Ferny Creek’s day with the club unable to claim the B and C Grade finals.

In the B Grade, Beaconsfield withstood a late surge from the Bloods to secure a 40-35 win.

The Eagles came out firing and appeared to stun the top-placed Bloods throughout the first three quarters.

It wasn’t until the final quarter that the Bloods finally got some rhythm and mounted a searing comeback.

But it was too little too late as the Eagles held on comfortably to take the win.

In the C Grade, Olinda couldn’t complete its fairytale finals run as it was beaten convincingly by Cranbourne, 36-17.

The Bloods almost had the perfect finals run, after coming from fifth place to make the grand final.

But the Eagles proved exactly why they had been one of the top teams the entire season, leading at every break to finish with a strong win.

In other grand final games throughout the day, Berwick defeated Cranbourne 24-19 in the Premier Division D Grade grand final.

ROC rebounded, after an upset 32-28 loss to Berwick in the 15-and-under grand final, by claiming the 17-and-under title 35-26 against Cranbourne.

Meanwhile, Pakenham brought the home crowd to its feet with a narrow two-goal win over Narre Warren in the 13-and-under grand final.

The Lions trailed the Magpies until half-time, but an impressive second-half performance ﹘ inspired by athletic goal attack and best on court Lachlan Bertrone ﹘ saw the home side come back and then hold on to the win.

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