South Morang claimed the 2022 Division 3 reserves premiership, after comfortably defeating Mernda by 60 points at the Whittlesea Showgrounds on Saturday.
It was the Lions’ first flag in the Division 3 Reserves’ competition since 2010 and their first grand final appearance since the 2016 decider where they went down to St Mary’s by three points.
They escaped with a four-point victory over Kilmore in the second semi-final before a strong four quarter display, including a brilliant five goal to nil first half, secured the 14.8 (92) to 4.8 (32) triumph.
Christopher Barlow was adjudged the best on ground, capping off a terrific 2022 campaign, making it three consecutive weeks as his side’s best player.
Joshua Lansfield kicked four majors, bringing his total to just 18 goals in just five games for the Reserves side this year. The Lions had seven individual goalkickers for their 14 majors with five of those, including Lansfield, kicking multiple goals.
Brendan Brettschneider and Matthew Ceravolo also stood out for South Morang.
While the Demons fell short, their efforts to make the decider shouldn’t be discounted. Coming from fourth spot, Mernda produced 13-point and 16-point wins in their two finals to help the club reach their first Reserves grand final since 2014.
Ethan Wild produced another terrific game for Mernda, making it five times in the best in his last six games. Anthony Talbot and Michael Arcus were also solid contributors.
Marcus Saddington led the way in the scoring front with two majors. He kicked six against the Lions in their Round 18 battle, a game where the Demons went down by just three points.
Mernda were yet to defeat South Morang this season, but off the back of two big finals victories, the potential for them to cause a huge upset was significant.
The Lions had a bright start to the game, kicking the opening goal in just three minutes of play before Ceravolo converted his set shot midway through the term the quickly establish a 12-point quarter time lead.
The minor premiers continued to press in the second quarter, keeping the Demons goalless while kicking three majors of their own.
Mernda did have the ball locked up in their forward half in the first five minutes of the term, creating multiple chances with continuous entries inside 50, but they weren’t able to convert those opportunities into goals.
The Lions pounced and against the run of play, Lansfield made it a 17-point margin with his first of the match.
From there, South Morang were able to control the contest, kicking two further majors to head into the main break with a 29-point advantage.
Adam Jacklin extended the margin in the early stages of the third term, but the Demons looked threatening up forward as they attempted to kickstart a comeback run, doing well to keep the ball inside their attacking 50.
Eventually, their hard work paid off, with a dribbling major from Jack Garraway being his side’s first major of the grand final, 14 minutes into the third quarter.
Mernda then kicked a second goal a few minutes later thanks to Saddington, to bring the deficit back to 24 points.
But the Demons couldn’t go on with it from there as the Lions closed out the term with two further goals to finish the premiership quarter 36 points up.
Mernda continued to fight hard in the hope of winning back momentum throughout the last term, but South Morang blew them out of the park, with a six goal quarter assuring the minor premiers of the flag.