A powerful fourth quarter propelled Thomastown to a brilliant Marbuilt Division 3 Under 19.5 Grand Final victory, defeating Hurstbridge by 30 points at the Whittlesea Showgrounds.
This season, the Bears entered an Under 19.5’s side for the first time since 2012, which ended up being a premiership year for the club.
After a third-place finish in the home and away season, they won both lead up finals before challenging the Bridges throughout the contest, eventually breaking away with a five-goal final term to finish 11.9 (75) to 6.9 (45) winners.
For Thomastown, Jai Anderson was pivotal in the Bears attack, and his six goals was the difference between the two sides.
Sean Culhane was an ever-present force in the midfield for Thomastown, racking up disposals with his explosive run out of the centre. Also impressing was Eric Hatzis, who’s terrific performance saw him rewarded with the best on ground medallion.
Meanwhile for Hurstbridge, Billy Loustas and Jacob Osbourne were important contributors throughout the match.
From the outset, possession between the two sides was evenly shared, with neither team able to capitalise on opportunities.
Jaison Nguyen proved to be a force early on for Thomastown, taking intercept marks and bringing the ball to the ground off centre half back.
After 10 minutes of play, Billy Lovett kicked truly from just 15 metres out to score the opening goal of the match.
The Bridges’ defence held up early on, with players holding their positions well as the ball came in, while intercept marks and turnovers thwarted many forward thrusts from the Bears.
Thomastown would eventually break through, and they opened their account with a goal coming from Jai Anderson.
The game looked evenly poised heading into the first change, and it was reflected on the scoreboard, with each side registering 1.1 for the term.
As the second quarter drew on, it was apparent that Thomastown had lifted their intensity and were starting to get on top.
Anderson would kick his second before Sean Culhane put his foot down in the quarter, getting many possessions out of the centre as Thomastown started to dominate in the middle.
It was exemplified when Harrison Karvellas extended the Bears’ lead to beyond three goals. Culhane’s ability to keep his feet during the contest was invaluable, with the dewy ground making it difficult to gather the ball at full speed.
Jackson Hayse also played a big part in building the Thomastown lead and was serviceable in ruck contests while finding his teammates around the ground by foot.
Hurstbridge’s Rueben Thomson converted for his team’s first and only goal of the quarter right before the half time siren, giving the Bridges a much-needed boost heading into the second half.
And would go on to start that second half with a bang, as Liam Karakaltchev kicked the goal of the day with a great snap to get the Bridges back into the contest.
The game flowed more freely in the ‘premiership quarter’, allowing Tangimamao Punguika to capitalise from a Bridges turnover in defence, giving Thomastown their fifth major of the match.
Anderson then got on the board for his third before an important 10-minute period, in which both sides fought hard to gain ascendency in the match.
But in the last five minutes of the term, Jay Gigliotti sparked a Hurstbridge turnaround. The Bridges kicked three straight goals to steal the lead off a Bears side who struggled to halt their opponent’s attacks.
The minor premiers would lead by two points at the final break and with the breeze proving to be inconsistent, the premiership would go to the side that best handled the last quarter of the year.
It would soon become clear that Thomastown were the team that would come home strong in the final term. They immediately won the first clearance from the centre square and locked the ball inside their forward 50.
Jonathon Stathopoulos’ pressure was elite, and he was soon rewarded with the go-ahead goal for the Bears.
Thomastown took control for the rest of the game and led by a further three majors from Anderson, finished the match strong to take home the club’s first premiership of any kind since 2016.