South Morang issued a major statement that is will again be a major contender for the Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 flag with a convincing 44-point win over Kilmore.
With no team being relegated from second division for the 2021 season, it seemed logical to expect the three teams that made up the 2019 finals series would fight it out for the flag this season.
However, when the team changes were published prior to the season, 2019 runner-up South Morang was seen by many to be down the pecking order a little way.
They had lost Luke Shelton, Bailey Brown and Cory Giannone since the 2019 season. And there were no star recruits of which to boast.
But the Lions showed they should be considered a major contender with an emphatic 44-point win over highly-fancied Kilmore outfit at Mill Park Lakes Reserve in Round 3.
It needs to be remembered that South Morang has a very strong junior program and the team that won on Saturday boasted no fewer than eight players from the 2019 Division 2 Under-19 premiership team.
Despite losing quality players from the senior team over recent years, the strength of their juniors has held the Lions in good stead. They have made a preliminary final or better in each year since returning to Division 3 in 2014.
The Lions had an average age of just 22.5 in the Round 3 win, which was three years younger than their Kilmore counterparts.
South Morang booted the first three goals of the match then slammed on the last five in the 11.19 (85) to 5.11 (41) victory.
Despite the Lions appearing to be in control of the contest, the Blues looked a real chance when Caden Fitzpatrick kicked truly in the third term to reduce the deficit to just 14 points. But it was the last goal his team registered.
Long-time Lion defender Liam Failla was best afield as a midfielder. He also pushed forward to boot two majors.
Supporting Failla through the centre was Matthew Trim, Tye Hall, Rohan Buzzini and Nathan Bell.
Trent Harvey spent 2019 in the reserves, but looks to have cemented a spot as a reliable defender.
Up forward, Alex Colaidis kicked the first two majors of the game and later spent some time in the midfield. Jake Potter and youngster Joshua Lansfield kicked two goals each as well.
“We put on early pressure and our structures held up. It was a good win for the boys,” South Morang captain Mathew Robinson said.
Both teams managed to move the ball from defence to attack fluently at times, but each side let themselves down by poor kicking at goal. A combined score of 16.30 attests to that and there were some shots that missed everything as well.
Kilmore had high hopes of an away win against a highly rated opponent, but failed to deliver on the day. The cause was not aided by star midfielder Chris Ryall missing through injury.
“Disappointed with the result. The Lions were first to every contest,” Kilmore coach Nathan Phillips said.
But there were some positives for Kilmore fans. Grant Paxton was terrific down back and was swung onto the dangerous Jake Potter after Stephen McIntyre left the field in the third quarter with an ankle injury.
The injury to McIntyre also saw Michael McCulloch move from ruck to defence and then 19-year-old Caden Fitzpatrick rucked with great effect late in the contest.
Bailey Taylor-Egan took numerous marks around the ground and was also athletic enough to contest ground balls.
Ever-reliable Leigh Irons got plenty of it, while the Swindells brothers Matthew and Scott were targets up forward.
Each team lost an important player prior to the game. South Morang’s James Hewson was replaced by Dominic Tropea. Ciaran Barton was a late out for the Blues and was replaced by Max Lacorcia.
Despite the loss, Kilmore retains fourth spot on the ladder and has an important clash with the undefeated Heidelberg West next week at J. J. Clancy Reserve.
South Morang will look to keep its unbeaten record intact when hosting Mernda at Mill Park Lakes Reserve. This game is special for the Lions because they will be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their 2011 Division 3 flag.
If they continue to play in the manner in which they did on Saturday, another flag looms as a distinct possibility.
Final score: South Morang 11.19 (85) def Kilmore 5.11 (41)
Goal Kickers: J. Lansfield 2, A. Colaidis 2, J. Potter 2, L. Failla 2, M. Trim, B. Peterson, D. Tropea
Best Players: L. Failla, T. Hall, N. Bell, M. Trim, T. Harvey, A. Lazaric
Goal Kickers: M. Webb 2, B. Taylor-Egan, C. Fitzpatrick, M. Swindells
Best Players: G. Paxton, L. Irons, C. Fitzpatrick, A. Milne, M. Swindells, M. McCulloch