Olinda’s senior women to enter first-ever grand final

Grace (The Ace) Belloni was pretty happy to kick the winning goal. PICTURES: TREVOR CURRIE

Olinda lined up on preliminary final weekend to face a Healesville side that had defeated them twice convincingly during the home and away season. Olinda was yet to defeat Healesville….ever.

In keeping with all previous meetings Healesville jumped Olinda in the first quarter.

Ruck colossus Chelsea Wilson received a couple of knees to the ribs, and effectively spent the rest of the game in the arms of the trainers. Olinda’s younger, smaller mosquito fleet were bumped and bullied by their older, bigger opponents.

Battered and bruised, Olinda trudged off the battlefield having gone down to a rampaging Healesville by 33 points, the “other” Bloods booking themselves a place in the Grand Final the following week.

That was 2022.

2023, Polk Salad Annie, Olinda’s in the grand final.

Olinda overran their fiercest adversary, Healesville, in the second half at a glorious Don Road oval on Sunday, finishing the game four points in front, and securing a ticket to the big dance next weekend against Pakenham.

The last quarter was one of the most intense ever experienced in women’s football.

Healesville started the quarter two points in front, and peppering their goals unrewarded for the first nine minutes.

Healesville were about to reap that reward when they eared a free kick 20 metres out from goal.

All Olinda hearts sunk when the whistle blew for a second time, thinking Olinda had given away a 25-metre penalty, putting the Healesville player on the goal line.

Enter into the picture reigning full back of the year Casey (The Vault) Seymour. Whether by luck, sleight of hand or a pure brain fade by her opponent, Case found herself on her backside in the goal square, the second whistle was to award her a free kick. If there was ever an example of why women’s football matches need two umpires officiating, this was it.

The Vault thundered the ball out wide to Kyah (The Missile) Barry who turned inboard and kicked to (DJ) Ness Curnow (nee Bateman). Ness turned deftly and handballed to a running Georgia (Peaches) Stubs who switched onto the chest of the dangerous Emmalee (Bruce Lee) Keegan. Bruce burst off her opponent and thumped the ball into the forward line. Full forward Ruby (Barb) Gilson swooped on the ball at half forward, brushed off her opponent and pounded the ball to the top of a vacant goal square. In the most fortuitous bounce ever witnessed, the ball bounced at a 90-degree angle and at the perfect height of the descending Grace (The Ace) Belloni who ran into the open goal to put Olinda four points in front, and they would never be headed. The minority Olinda crowd erupted with a roar that surely would have been heard by those back at home.

What followed was what seemed the longest seven minutes in the players’ and supporters’ lives, where every second felt like a minute. The ball lived in Healesville’s forward line, and every Olinda back, mid, and half forward fought desperately to prevent a score.

After an eternity of fierce defending the siren finally sounded with the ball fittingly in the hands of “OG” Emmalee Keegan. The players, officials and supporters cheered and hugged in joyous excitement. Olinda had finally defeated their arch nemesis on the most important of days.

A host of Olinda players played brilliantly on the day. As the coach sat in the rooms after the game he had 14 magnets in front of him agonising over which he would leave out of the votes.

While it would be appropriate to give all the players an individual wrap, hopefully that can be done next week.

A special mention must go to Captain Courageous Claire Hyett who continues to lead and inspire all around her, on and off the field. Unfortunately Anja (Onions) Hulston will miss next week’s grand final due to competing in national championships interstate. Onions has been a secret recipe to Olinda’s success this season, and her unheralded work blanketing the opposition’s best each week has been invaluable.

Olinda plays in it’s first grand final next Sunday against Pakenham at the magnificent Don Road oval at Healesville. For those wishing to see the best Outer East women’s football has to offer, this will be a spectacle not to be missed.