PORT Melbourne could hardly have been more impressive or authoritative.
In its final home-and-away match, the minor premier tore fellow finalist North Ballarat to ribbons at North Port Oval, winning by 111 points under blue skies that indicated September is the next click on the calendar.
It was an exemplary performance ahead of this Saturday’s qualifying final, most likely against reigning premiers Box Hill Hawks, who themselves won by a three-figure margin, nailing the Northern Blues by 129 points.
Port and Box Hill have staged some of the VFL’s most compelling finals in the past few years, as Port coach Gary Ayres noted.
“If it’s them we play, they’re going to be a formidable opponent for us,’’ he said.
“Nothing less than our best will be needed, I’d suggest.’’
The Borough began brilliantly against North Ballarat, kicking eight goals before conceding one.
It continued on with the ruthlessness of an executioner, moving the ball quickly and classily.
Possessions were plentiful for Chris Cain (28), Toby Pinwill (28), Shane Valenti (27), James Magner (27) and Shannen Lange (27), although all were topped by half back Damian Mascitti, who had 31 disposals and presumably caught the eye of the AFL scouts taking notes in the Norm Goss grandstand.
As for Magner, his past three games have been exceptional.
Dashers Luke Tynan, Marcus Marigliani and Marcus Davies were worthy contributors and the scoring load was spread, with Julian Rowe, Chris Michaliades (playing his first senior game since April), Will Johnson, Sam Pleming (enjoying a brief stint forward) and Dan Connors all kicking three goals.
Connors stabbed a scare into the Port bench when he hobbled off with a foot injury, but it was more an inconvenience than a threat to missing finals.
There were no injuries, although nine players applied ice packs to sore spots after the match.
“We really achieved our objective today, which was to keep the momentum going and to go into the finals with some really good form,’’ Ayres said.
“We produced four quarters of relentless footy, had some really dominant passages, and that’s what you need to win finals.’’
Roosters coach Gerard FitzGerald acknowledged Port’s quality.
“Good side, yeah, very good side. We came up against the best and fell well short,’’ he said.
“They’ve done a very good job with that group. Very consistent, very strong, very good methods.’’
The Borough rested Tom O’Sullivan, but he will return this week, and ruckman David Fanning will also be available after recovering from a calf injury that has had him watching since July 12.
But Ayres is likely to give him a gallop in the Development League and keep faith with Sandy Robinson, backed by Will Johnson and Hugh Sandilands.
Clay and Tomi Johnston, Sam O’Sullivan and Cal Thornton will also be in the selectors’ thoughts.
Unfortunately for Josh Scipione, his season could be over due to a lingering calf problem.
Saturday’s qualifying final brings a milestone for Borough midfielder Toby Pinwill: his 150th match.
Injuries restricted the bruising Pinwill to 10 games in 2010, 11 in 2012 and 10 last season, but he’s appeared in every match this year and played at a standard that has him among the favourites for the JJ Liston Trophy.
Port Melbourne 6.1 11.8 18.14 24.20 (164)
North Ballarat 0.3 2.6 5.9 7.11 (53)
Port Melbourne: Michaliades 3 Rowe 3 Johnson 3 Pleming 3 Connors 3 Pinwill 2 Lange 2 Bonaddio 2 Sandilands Baird Langford
North Ballarat: Curnow 3 Couch Grigg Horbury Dumont
Port Melbourne: Magner Cain Mascitti Pinwill Valenti Davies
North Ballarat: Dumont Curnow Lockyer George Couch Boseley