The Northern Football Netball League is back where it belongs – at the top of the AFL Victoria Community Championships rankings.
The NFNL claimed the No.1 spot after scoring a convincing 24-point win over the Geelong Football Netball League in the 2019 Worksafe AFL Victoria Community Championships.
The 12.14 (86) to 8.14 (62) victory at Queens Park Highton was set-up by dominant second and third quarters, allowing the NFNL to ease to victory in the final term.
Trailing by 12 points early in the second quarter, the NFNL blew the game open with six unanswered goals midway through the second term to take a 21-point advantage into half time.
The NFNL continued its dominance during the third term, piling on four goals to two to take an unassailable 35-point advantage into the last term.
Defender Nick Riddle was outstanding, with his shutdown role also highlighted by several telling marks deep inside defensive 50m.
The Greensborough star claimed best afield honours – the second time he has done so at representative level, after also winning the best on ground medal in the clash with the VAFA in 2015.
Jai Robinson and Brandon Bailey also produced stellar performances in the back half, with their neat foot skills providing plenty of clean rebound out of defence.
Returning to the side after missing last year’s win over the MPNFL, co-captain Matthew Dennis was dominant in the ruck, while Tom Blake also offered great support.
Their work ensured the NFNL won the midfield battle, with Anton Woods, Jordan Perry, Jesse Donaldson, Stephen McCallum and Jesse Tardio all playing telling roles in the comprehensive win.
Patrick Fitzgerald was clearly the best forward on the ground and finished with a game-high five goals.
The Montmorency forward kicked the NFNL’s opening two goals, with his haul highlighted by remarkable long-range goals from the boundary line in each of the second and third quarters.
Liam McVeigh presented well at centre half forward and took several strong marks, while Jhye Baddeley-Kelly was a constant threat inside attacking 50m.
In perfect conditions and in front of a large crowd, the NFNL started the match better than their host and hit the scoreboard first after Fitzgerald crumbed the ball from a marking contest and strolled into an open goal in the sixth minute.
The football bandied between the 50m arcs for much of the first term, with both defences holding up well to the early heat.
GFNL remained goalless for much of the quarter, before Riley Ferguson slotted their first at the 25-minute mark.
The small forward added another a minute later as the hosts took the lead for the first time – an advantage they retained at the first break, where they lead by six points.
The home side’s momentum continued after the resumption of play, with Louis Herbert making it three goals in a row when he converted from close range early in the second term.
However, the goal proved to be a spark for the NFNL – who went on to dominate the contest for the remainder of the quarter.
Fitzgerald cut the deficit to five points after taking a towering mark from a Chaz Sargeant forward 50m entry, before strolling into the open goal.
Jack Furlong and Jesse Donaldson then both kicked goals from stoppages inside forward 50m to give the NFNL a seven-point cushion, before Fitzgerald took a towering mark on the boundary line and slotted the goal from just inside 50m.
Heidelberg teammates Ryan Stone and Matthew Cecchin helped extend the buffer to 26 points, with Stone converting from the goal line following an assist from Baddeley-Kelly, before Cecchin launched accurately from long range.
The game’s biggest highlight followed, with Justin White tacking a massive hanger deep inside the NFNL forward line.
A late goal to Herbert cut the margin to 21 points at half time, before another to Luke Hillman early in the third term saw the home side close within 15.
Fitzgerald steadied the ship with a remarkable set shot goal from outside the boundary line, however the GFNL responded via a major to Curtis McCarthy.
With the game still in the balance, it was the NFNL who again lifted.
Blake snuck forward to mark unopposed and slotted the set shot, before Fitzgerald kicked his fifth when Dale Marshall intercepted a kick-in and found the big man alone in the goal square.
Baddeley-Kelly then added another after an outstanding coast-to-coast play to hand the NFNL a 35-point lead at the last change.
Dennis sealed the deal early in the last quarter when he won a downfield free kick and converted from 30m.
The NFNL were able to soak up the win in the final term and were never threatened, despite two late consolation goals from the home side.
Final scores: NFNL 12.14 (86) def GFNL 8.14 (62)
Best Players: N. Riddle, A. Woods, P. Fitzgerald, M. Dennis, J. Robinson, B. Bailey
Goal Kickers: P. Fitzgerald 5, J. Furlong, J. Baddeley-Kelly, R. Stone, M. Dennis, M. Cecchin, J. Donaldson, T. Blake
Best Players: C. Tudor, J. Simpkin, B. Rees, R. Ferguson, P. Dowling, A. Cincotta
Goal Kickers: L. Herbert 2, L. Hillman 2, R. Ferguson 2, C. McCarthy, C. Delaney