From The Sunday Age
Reported by Brent Diamond
Full artcile - Click here
The Casey Scorpions finally broke their finals run of 11 consecutive September losses with a 70-point qualifying final victory over Footscray at Casey Fields on Saturday.
The Scorpions advanced to the preliminary final, just as Collingwood did with their demolition of reigning premier Williamstown at IKON Park.
Admittedly, much of the Scorpions' achievement comes back to affiliate Melbourne's influence – in which this season the Demons have allowed the majority of their developing youngsters to play VFL finals. In contrast, their straight-sets exits in previous seasons have been influenced by the Demons sending players into end-of-season surgery in preparation for the following year.
Sting in the tail: Sam Weideman of celebrates after kicking a goal for Casey against Footscray in the VFL qualifying final. Photo: Scott Barbour/AFL Media
Ironically, it is Footscray's season that has been tainted by their AFL team. The Bulldogs perhaps would have played forward Jake Stringer and Toby McLean had they not been scheduled to face West Coast at Domain Stadium in an elimination final on Thursday night.
"Certainly, the AFL fixture has compromised us a little bit today in terms of selection … we're a role specific team and we're not a personnel-based team," Bulldogs VFL coach Ash Hansen said.
"Hopefully, if we beat West Coast on Thursday night, we will have a full squad to pick from [for the semi-final against Essendon]."
The Bulldogs were brave in the opening half, before the Scorpions got on top in the second, after booting six consecutive goals in the third term.
Melbourne have seen the benefits of VFL success – albeit it has taken some time – through Geelong, Hawthorn's Box Hill and the Western Bulldogs, all of whom have won recent VFL flags.
Christian Salem and Jay Kennedy-Harris were late withdrawals, but are expected to be fit and available for the preliminary final clash – in which they will face either Port Melbourne or Sandringham, who clash in an elimination final on Sunday – or Williamstown.
Casey coach Justin Plapp said he was "elated" with the rare finals victory.
"I'm clearly over the moon, but we've got to look at the reality, we've won a final … the next game is going to be a tough game no matter who it is," Plapp said.
Angus Scott kicked four goals for the Scorpions, while Sam Weideman booted three. Matt Jones racked up 33 touches, while Viv Michie, rated as a Liston Trophy favourite, also had 32 touches.
The other usual suspects also did the damage: Alex Neal-Bullen (31 disposals), Clayton Oliver (26), Jack Grimes (26), Lynden Dunn (24) and Dean Terlich (24).
Footscray are now locked into a cut-throat semi-final against a resurgent Essendon next week. They will have to do so without vice-captain Mark Austin, who was stretchered off with a suspected ACL injury in the second term.
Mitch Honeychurch was relentless for the Dogs with 32 touches, Will Minson battled hard against Jake Spencer in the ruck, while Declan Hamilton kicked four goals.
Collingwood dashed into a preliminary final after a comfortable 46-point win over Williamstown in the qualifying final.
But the Pies desperately need the week's break following injuries to Jack Frost, Ben Moloney and skipper Jack Hellier, all of whom will be in doubt for the clash, against the winner of next week's semi-final between Footscray and Essendon.
Essendon's thrilling elimination final win over Geelong was a remarkable come-from-behind 22-point victory at North Port Oval.
The eighth-placed Bombers kicked nine final-quarter goals – to almost match their eight first-quarter goals – to shock the fifth-placed Cats, who had led by almost four goals early in the final term after Nakia Cockatoo had edged through the first.
They kicked five goals in seven minutes to get into the match, before careering away, 21.6 (132) to 17.8 (110).
Nash Holmes kicked the sealer at the 26-minute mark to extend the margin to 22 points late in the final term.
Bombers VFL coach Matthew Egan, coaching against his former team, threw James Polkinghorne forward in a masterstroke. He stepped up in the second half with four goals – and while he has been important in 10 of the past 11 matches for the Bombers this was the ex-Lion's most significant.
From a horror season at AFL level, there was considerable light at the end of the tunnel for the Bombers, most notably top-10 draft selection Aaron Francis, and his booming 60-metre goal in the final term.
From a VFL perspective, Aaron Heppell (28 disposals) will almost certainly be considered as a mature-age draftee at the end of the season. He has taken a significant step in his development this season.
Significantly, no Geelong player had more than 20 possessions – in contrast to the Cats last start against the Borough, in which George Horlin-Smith racked up 36 touches.
Geelong were considered the best flag chance outside of the top four. Now the resurgent Bombers, a revered underdog, are the fans favourite. The VFL would truly love a Collingwood and Essendon preliminary final – and that now becomes a genuine possibility.
2nd Elimination Final: Port Melbourne v Sandringham, North Port Oval, 2.40pm