Panton Hill claimed the Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 premiership after leading from start to finish in a 40-point grand final win over South Morang.
Six unanswered goals in the first term when kicking with the aid of the breeze set up the 11.13 (79) to 5.9 (39) triumph at the Whittlesea Showgrounds.
Man of the match Daniel Freeman booted two of his three for the day early to put the Redbacks on track.
The first goal of the day came from leading league goal kicker Rhys Boyden. He marked wide out at 40 metres, played on and split the middle. From that moment on, Mathew Robinson kept him in check and was the Lions’ best defender.
South Morang coach Gary Hall urged his charges at quarter time to avoid kicking high and long to the Redback tall defenders. His team took note and moved the ball better in the second term to get back into the game.
They were goalless midway through the term despite controlling general play before three-time best and fairest Luke Shelton got them on the board.
Then 18-year-old Mitch Kalpakis booted another two. The rising star – who played mainly in defence but drifted forward at times – slotted his second from a set shot just before the siren.
It reduced the half time deficit to a manageable 20 points and the Lions went into the break with some momentum.
Nathan Bell is another under-19 player for South Morang and is an excitement machine. He kicked a stunning goal from wide in the pocket early in the third term. It was the first goal at the Yea Rd end and suddenly his team had kicked four unanswered goals to draw within 14 points.
Just as a huge upset seemed on the cards, the top team snapped into action as Alek Tsardakis struck a purple patch. He booted two goals in quick succession and had chances to kick two others for the term.
Freeman kicked his third for the day and the Redbacks had broken out to a 32-point lead at the nine-minute mark of the third term. But that was the last major for any team for the rest of the quarter.
The Lions had managed to clog up the attacking 50 of Panton Hill late in the term, but they couldn’t get that vital goal themselves to close the gap.
Despite having to go against the wind in the final stanza, a 35-point lead looked to be enough for the Redbacks. Coach Steve Layt reminded his players that this had been two years in the making and every one of them needed to give their all for the final 30 minutes.
Both teams found scoring tough in the final quarter. After eight minutes, Nathan Bell gave South Morang a glimmer of hope when he kicked his second. But then the goals dried up for the Lions.
The game seemed safe for Panton Hill but a Todd Johnston goal from the square midway through the term sealed the deal.
The Redbacks were in party mode from the time on and the South Morang players looked like they were out of petrol tickets – despite never giving in.
Joyous celebrations followed the presentation of the cup to coach Steve Layt, captain Mitch Anderson and the Redbacks team.
“The plan was perfect today,” Layt said. “This is massive for all of us.”
No doubt Layt was pleased with the fact that they were able to cope with the pressure of being warm favourites and being able to withstand a mid-game charge from the Lions.
He had many solid contributors who assisted best afield Freeman. Joel McLellan dominated in the ruck, 2013 best and fairest Nathan Hendry was prolific in the middle, Anderson was solid down back, while Tim Duckworth’s precise kicking from defence was a standout.
Matthew Byron was a great target up forward and finished off his work with the last goal of the day. Tsardakis booted three goals and was the most dangerous small forward.
South Morang coach Gary Hall praised Panton Hill as deserving winners and the best team in 2019. He also had some kind words for his own players. “A great effort just to get there. Heads up and well done for the year.”
Indeed, the Lions were looking down the barrel leading into the Round 18. With Mernda winning, they needed an upset win over Laurimar at Laurimar Reserve and pulled it off, then became only the third team in Division 3 to make the grand final from the first semi final.
South Morang lost Tye Hall during the week with an ACL injury, while James Hewson was a late withdrawal after failing a fitness test.
The Lions were well served by youngsters Bell and Kalpakis – both kicking two majors. Shelton played forward and midfield and scored a goal, while Robinson led a defence which toiled manfully all day.
Panton Hill moves to second division and would hope to follow the path of Banyule and become a force.
South Morang looks to be a leading contender in third division for 2020. A huge positive for the Lions was that their under-19s came from behind in their preliminary final to defeat Mernda by three points.
The curtain raiser gave Heidelberg West its first football premiership of any kind since 1966. The Hawks led all day to claim the reserves grand final by 15 points, but had to withstand a strong challenge from Old Eltham Collegians.
Final score: Panton Hill 11.13 (79) def South Morang 5.9 (39)
Goal Kickers: D. Freeman 3, A. Tsardakis 3, T. Johnston, C. Jordan, M. Byron, R. Boyden, N. Hendry
Best Players: D. Freeman, N. Hendry, T. Duckworth, J. McLellan, B. Ryan, M. Fowler
Goal Kickers: N. Bell 2, M. Kalpakis 2, L. Shelton
Best Players: N. Bell, M. Kalpakis, J. Potter, M. Robinson, R. Jones, L. Shelton