By David Nagel
Beaconsfield and Upwey-Tecoma battled it out for the right to take on Mt Evelyn in the AFL Outer East Division One women’s grand final after a great day of semi-final action at Upwey on Sunday.
Upwey-Tecoma and Pakenham – the Tigers and Lions – kicked things off at 1pm in the first semi-final with the winner keeping its season alive and the vanquished hanging up their boots for the final time this year.
General play was pretty much even in the first quarter but the Tigers had a touch of class up forward that saw them capitalise on their opportunities.
Jess Occhipinti, who had kicked 16 goals for the season heading into the contest, opened the Tigers’ account with a rushed snap that dribbled through after bouncing at the top of the goal square.
Alex Bantock, who was well held by Lions’ full-back Tash Wakenshaw for most of the game, then found space to take a strong grab and kick truly to give the Tigers a 12-point lead at quarter time.
Occhipinti once again proved the difference in a very even second quarter where both teams had two scoring shots. Occhipinti kicked truly at one end while the Lions couldn’t capitalise on their two opportunities when moving forward.
The Tigers led 4.0 (24) to 0.2 (2) at half time.
Pakenham coach Ian Shaw made some moves at the main break, switching Abbey Tognazzini, Amy Campbell and Lucy Ventham into the middle, while Melina Eppel and Rachel Betteridge were the focal points of a more open forward line.
The Lions matched the Tigers in the third term but the home side’s defence stood tall to repel any chance of a comeback.
Eppel kicked the only goal of the second half, cutting the half-time margin, but the Tigers still prevailed, 4.4 (28) to 1.3 (9), at the final siren.
Occhipinti was the difference between the two teams, kicking three of the five goals scored in the match, while Bec Robinson, Millie Samios and Cale McNess will take some great form into this Sunday’s preliminary final against Beaconsfield.
Despite being down and out at half time Pakenham showed great spirit to outscore the Tigers in the second half when it would have been a lot easier to roll over and get thumped.
Tognazzini was the clear standout for Lions – across half back and through the middle of the ground – while Ventham, Bianca Moody, Ros Cook, Emily Devine and skipper Chloe Nagel made sure they finished their seasons on a high.
Mt Evelyn, the red-hot favourites and totally dominant this year, moved into the grand final courtesy of a 4.9 (33) to 2.2 (14) victory over Beaconsfield in the second semi-final.
Beaconsfield showed some great early determination and held the powerful Rovers outfit in the opening stages of the contest.
The Rovers still led by 10 points at the first change and looked set for a comfortable progression when Matilda Kelly kicked the opening goal in the early seconds of the second term.
But the Eagles have been a solid contender this year and wouldn’t drop away without a fight. A strong mark and goal to Lauren Hojnacki cut the margin back to 10 points and the Eagles looked in the contest.
But the Rovers have had all the answers this year, and a quick reply to livewire Kiara Simons saw the Rovers take a 17-point lead to half time.
The Rovers kicked out to a 26-point lead the final change before Sophie Boneham kicked the only goal of the final term to cut the margin back to 19 points at the final siren.
Eastern Ranges vice-captain Bridget Deed was unstoppable for the Rovers, putting her classy left foot to good use, while Nicole Akers, Isabella Rennick and Savannah Bowden were others to shine on the day.
Eagles coach Troy Robinson will take plenty away from this contest, with his side able to curtail the Rovers for lengthy parts of the match.
Charlotte Jagusch and Aimee Buchan did a great job of keeping the best full-forward in the league to no goals, while Vicky Liarakos and Katie Angelis were instrumental figures through the midfield.
The preliminary final between Beaconsfield and Upwey-Tecoma will take place at 2.50pm this Sunday, 8 August at the Yarra Junction Football Ground.
It was a day of upsets in AFL Outer East Division Two with the lowest ranked teams in both games coming away with stunning victories.
Olinda Ferny Creek is the first team through to the big dance after a 4.8 (32) to 1.5 (11) victory over flag favourites Yarra Junction in Sunday’s second semi-final at Belgrave.
The Bloods set the scene with some great defensive work in the first half, keeping the Eagles goalless to take an eight-point lead to the main break.
Both teams kicked a goal each in the third term before the Bloods produced a stirring final quarter effort to run away with victory. The Bloods kicked 2.1 to 0.1 in the final stanza to book their ticket to grand final day.
Shanae Northey kicked two crucial goals for the winners, while Kiah Burgess and best-on-ground Madeleine Collins chimed in with a six-pointer each.
Georgia Page and Sarah Wilcox were best for the Eagles, who will now take on Belgrave in the preliminary final after the Magpies eliminated Officer with a 2.10 (22) to 2.0 (12) victory in the first semi-final.
Danielle Weisgerber and Serenity Connolly booted a goal each for the Magpies, while Sarah Phillips and Rachel Ferguson were the best players around the ground.
It was a disappointing finish to a promising season for the Kangaroos who had Mel Davey and Kim Isaacs boot a goal each and Kirsty and Maegan Davey fight their seasons out right to the final siren.
Second Semi-Final (1 v 2)
MT EVELYN 1.4 3.5 4.8 4.9 (33)
BEACONSFIELD 0.0 1.0 1.0 2.2 (14)
Mt Evelyn Goals: K. Simons, L. Kelly, I. Rennick, M. Kelly. Best: B. Deed, N. Akers, I. Rennick, S. Bowden, I. Urquhart, G. Ploegsma
Beaconsfield Goals: S. Boneham, L. Hojnacki. Best: C. Jagusch, V. Liarakos, S. McCallum, A. Buchan, K. Angelis, L. Hojnacki.
First Semi-Final (3 v 4)
UPWEY TECOMA 2.0 4.0 4.1 4.4 (28)
PAKENHAM 0.0 0.2 0.2 1.3 (9)
Upwey Tecoma Goals: J. Occhipinti 3, A. Bantock. Best: C. White, R. Robinson, K. Oates, J. Occhipinti, M. Samios, C. McNess.
Pakenham Goals: M. Eppel. Best: A. Tognazzini, L. Ventham, B. Moody, R. Cook, E. Devine, C. Nagel.
Preliminary Final: Sunday, 8 August, 2.50pm at Yarra Junction: Beaconsfield v Upwey-Tecoma.
Second Semi-Final (1 v 2)
YARRA JUNCTION 0.3 0.3 1.4 1.5 (11)
OLINDA FERNY CREEK 1.2 1.5 2.7 4.8 (32)
Yarra Junction Goals: E. Spicer. Best: G. Page, S. Wilcox, A. Ito, E. Spicer, J. Cousens, J. Mewburn.
Olinda Ferny Creek Goals: S. Northey 2, K. Burgess, M. Collins. Best: M. Collins, C. Hyett, K. Verbakel, C. Yuki, C. Wilson, L. Cody.
First Semi-Final (3 v 4)
OFFICER 0.0 0.0 2.0 2.0 (12)
BELGRAVE 1.1 1.2 2.6 2.10 (22)
Officer Goals: K. Isaacs, M. Davey. Best: K. Davey, M. Davey, N. Holmes, M. Allen, J. Archibald, C. Davey.
Belgrave Goals: D. Weisgerber, S. Connolly. Best: S. Phillips, R. Ferguson, C. Missos, A. Wilson, D. Weisgerber, S. Hopkins.
Preliminary Final: Sunday, 8 August, 1pm at Yarra Junction: Yarra Junction v Belgrave.