|YOU'RE at the crossroads, Port Melbourne coach Gary Ayres told his
players. You've come so far this season. There can be no turning back,
not now. Back yourself at this crossroads. Go straight ahead.
It was half-time of Saturday's VFL preliminary final against
Williamstown at TEAC Oval.
Port was trailing by four goals after being buried late in the second
quarter. The supporters who congregate in front of the Norm Goss Senior
stand had grown silent.
An hour later they were jigging with joy after the Boroughs staged a
splendid recovery to win by 21 points and advance to Friday night's
decider against North Ballarat at the Telstra Dome.
It will be Port Melbourne's third grand final in seven years and it
is chasing its first premiership since 1982.
It is also out to become the first non-AFL aligned club to win the
cup since the competition was re-vamped in 2000.
The preliminary final was Port Melbourne's 18th win this season and
unquestionably its best.
"No doubt, because it gets you into a grand final," Ayres
said after the match. "We knew what was at the end of it. Now we
give ourselves a chance, simply because we're there."
Kicking with a four-goal wind to the Williamstown Rd end and tackling
fanatically, they opened brightly but inaccurately, kicking 5.9 to 2.4
in the first quarter.
But Williamstown made it look a thin return when it blasted six goals
in the final eight minutes of the half. Little Pat Rose started the run
with a terrific goal from a tight angle and he also finished it, booting
the ball out of the ground right on the half-time siren. With control of
the clearances and long, direct kicks, the Seagulls looked to have got
hold of Port.
But this Borough team is made of stern stuff.
"Yeah, absolutely, I did think we could come back," Ayres
"This year they've always responded and taken the challenge up
when they've had to.
"They're proud of how they perform. There's a lot of character
among this group of players.
"Everyone did something. That's how it has to be for us as a
stand-alone club, have have 22 players contributing."
The wind kicked up a little and the tide turned and ran the way of
Port in the third quarter.
Goals to Chris Cain (a nice effort on the left-foot), skipper Luke
Cotchett and Robin Nahas (a right-foot snap) brought it back into
contention. The Nahas goal told a tale: relentless pressure was applied
on the Willy defenders and eventually they surrendered the ball, for
"Rockin Robin" to pounce like a snake on a mouse.
John Baird, shaking free from Jason Cloke, bombed one from 55m and a
Jono Mullins point regained the lead for Port Melbourne. It was around
this time that Ryan "Shooter" McMahon took a heavy hit from
Peter Street. McMahon had earlier suffered a dislocated finger. But
these were mere inconveniences for him. He pushed on to best-afield
Adrian Bonaddio kicked his third goal from a free and Jarrod Dalton
slotted another as the Boroughs completed a six-goals-to-none quarter.
There were similarly superb in the final term. The wind had dropped a
fraction but Port's intensity had gone up another notch.
The Boroughs did not try to sit on their lead. They sought to
increase it and they did when Toby Pinwill put away a right-foot snap,
extending the advantage to 22 points.
Now came an incident that will be dealt with by the VFL tribunal this
week. Sam Dwyer kicked for goal and as he did he copped a crunching
knock from Liam Picken, who was reported for charging. Dwyer was carried
off on a stretcher and there was pushing and shoving and hot words
between the teams.
But his kick had sailed through and Port was in a commanding
position. Cotchett made it even stronger when he ran on to a loose ball
and kicked a goal on his left-foot. There was no way back for the
Seagulls, who were outscored 10 goals to three in the second half.
Baird's crunching tackle on Kane McKenzie signalled the end of them.
McMahon finished with 33 possessions, Pinwill bustled for 22 and used
his strength to regularly fend off opponents, the unheralded Sam Pleming
had 23 disposals out of the backline, and Dwyer was up to 20 before he
went off. Baird persisted to have 19 possessions and he also applied
In attack, Bonaddio (four goals) was a constant threat with his
marking and Nahas and Mullins menaced the Gulls with their pace.
The Boroughs are likely to regain David Spriggs (hamstring) for the
|From Leader Group Newspapers
Reported by Paul Amy
Full article - www.localfooty.com.au
Luke Cotchett: the captain is in his seventh season at TEAC
Oval and has overcome groin problems to return for the finals campaign.
Classy, courageous small forward.
David Pitt: Veteran forward who has spent time on a wing this
season. Can take soaring marks and kick team-lifting goals.
Jono Mullins: take-'em-on little man who has been an excellent
pick-up from the Coburg Tigers.
David Robbins: a dual JJ Liston Trophy winner and
hard-running, creative midfielder. Lifted when it mattered on Saturday.
Luke Livingston: experienced and dependable defender who
stands and invariably beats the best forwards.
Cory McGrath: the experienced former Bomber and Blue uses his
precise left-foot to instigate attacks from the back flanks and wings.
Had a fine year.
Steve Brewer: unsung defender who kicks the ball long and
strong off the left-foot. Feeling at home at his fourth VFL club.
Kurt McGlynn: onballer who goes about his football with the
same gusto as his brother Ben, the tough Hawk. In a scrap or two on
Saturday and enjoyed it.
Toby Pinwill: bullocking onballer who has improved sharply
this season and has a VFL team-of-the-year gong to show for it. Key
player with his power around the packs.
Patrick Hassett: another youngster who kicked on under Ayres.
All dash and desperation.
Ryan McMahon: They call him "Shooter" and he put
holes in Williamstown with his uncompromising approach on Saturday. Been
a Borough since 2000 and is on the way to club-great status.
John Baird: made his reputation as a defender but has been
superb in the midfield this season. Persevered on Saturday to shake off
Jason Cloke and contribute in the second half.
David Spriggs: the former Cat and Swan missed the prelim with
a hamstring injury but is expected to come up for the decider.
Bo Nixon: been more steady than spectacular in 2008 but part
of a settled defence. One of six Port players with AFL experience.
Sam Dwyer: has raised his game this season, building on the
base of the reserves league medal he won last season.
Adrian Bonaddio: hulking spearhead whose hard leads either
produce marks or crumbs for Nahas and Mullins.
Robin Nahas: dazzling forward who has officially been
recognised as the VFL's most promising player. Should be on an AFL list.
Dylan McLaren: had a thin time of it in the preliminary final,
but a dominating performance in the big one is within his compass.
Matthew Smith: has had an excellent season as a key defender
but well capable of going forward and being a threat.
Chris Cain: clever right-footer who has attracted the interest
of AFL scouts with his clean skills and composure.
David Fanning: the ex-Magpie was the best big man on the
ground on Saturday. Likes to rest forward and filch a goal.
Jarrod Dalton: came through as a defender earlier in the
season but was useful as a hit-up target in the prelim.
Sam Pleming: the spotlight rarely settles on him but he's been
a leading performer in the backline for two years.
Coach Gary Ayres: the former Hawthorn champion had successful
coaching stints at Geelong and Adelaide, but left the Crows on unhappy
terms. But at Port he's not stopped smiling and the team has smiled with
him. His instructions are clear and positive and he is at one with the