Laurimar and Mernda played out one of the greatest grand finals in Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 history at the Whittlesea Showgrounds, with the Power twice coming from 17-points down in the final term to snatch a six-point win.
Their first ever premiership in the NFNL, Laurimar fought their way back by kicking four majors in time on to finish 13.5 (83) to 11.11 (77) winners. Joyous Power fans streamed onto the field to celebrate with their stars after the siren rang at the same time, almost every Demon player collapsed onto the ground after they had looked like winners for much of the second half.
“We all wanted it to be easier than two weeks ago in the second semi-final against Mernda,” Laurimar coach Jimmy Atkins said.
“We looked dead and buried, but the way the players fought their way back into it was absolutely brilliant.”
Instrumental in the comeback for the Power was captain Mitch Thompson. He exhibited a mixture of courage, footy smarts and endurance as he helped drag his team back from the brink.
Matthew Gersh was busy all day and booted two majors in the final term as the Power began to surge back into the game. Joel Lawson looked dangerous at half forward and slotted two goals also, meanwhile Ethan Bateman was solid in defence and repelled numerous attacks, also spending a bit of time in the ruck later in the contest.
Jai Langford produced great pace as well as excellent game awareness. Late in the first term, he received a handball on the wing, and seeing space in front of him, he took multiple bounces, ran inside fifty and calmly slotted the goal. He went for another run from the same spot late in the third quarter, and this time went for a pass from the fifty and found Kaiden Arthur, who kicked truly.
Arthur himself had an eventful afternoon. He took some hard hits in the course of play and had to be assisted from the ground midway through the third term. Although some suspected that his day was done, he reappeared some minutes later and finished with three goals.
Finishing with the best on ground medallion was Josh Leather, who was a valuable member for the Power throughout the afternoon and kicked a vital goal late in the game to level the scores. Noticing that opponent Billy Morrison was hampered, Leather grabbed the ball out of the ruck and snapped truly.
Mernda’s Morrison was close to the best-on-ground award himself, but hobbled over the boundary line at that point of the match and his day was done. He had given his team first use of the ball for most of the day.
The Demons also lost Michael Evans in the third term, who had been giving his team plenty of drive in the midfield until his injury.
As was the case in the second semi-final, Laurimar’s other captain in Luke Wilson was followed by Joel Harris. This time, Wilson managed to break free later in the game and kick two goals, with his second putting the Power in front late in final quarter, which was their first lead since late in the second term.
At that stage, with Morrison already off the ground, it appeared that Laurimar would have the advantage at the next centre bounce with a six-point lead. But somehow, no ruck option appeared, and it was Thompson who went up against the much taller Lachlan Taylor.
Taylor sent the ball forward to his team’s advantage and Zach Racovolis found William Crouch who marked at close range. Crouch slotted his second goal of the match to tie the scores again.
In the last minute of the game, Jacson Cecil had a set shot from a gettable distance, with any score giving Laurimar the lead. After taking his full 30-second allocation, his shot went through the big sticks, with the siren sounding just moments later to confirm Laurimar’s place in Division 2 in 2024.
The fans of the Demons would be sorely disappointed after looking like winners for large portions of the game, but coach Robert Fletcher helped put things in perspective after the game.
“We’re proud of your effort for the whole season”, he told his players after the game and added that he hoped to be up in Division 2 playing Laurimar very soon.
The Power flew out of the blocks and began the game well with two early goals as a result of a great work-rate and high pressure.
A nice finish from Lachlan Taylor at the eight-minute mark seemed to settle the Mernda players and they were able to go to the quarter time break in touch with their opponents, chasing an 11-point deficit.
Bryce Kimuliatis kicked two majors in the second term and his goal on the half time siren gave his team the lead. It was a kick that originally appeared to be a challenging one, but a 50-metre penalty took him to the line.
Mernda’s defence was in the firing line all afternoon but held up well. Led by Dayne Kellett, Jesse Guelfo and Shannon Bennett, they constantly repelled Laurimar attacking moves, and none of the Power talls were able to boot multiple goals as a result.
Daniel Smith is usually a goal-kicker for the Demons but got plenty of it as a high half forward, taking many marks as a linkman between defence and attack. Kai Turner was outstanding with his intercept marking while Riley Edwards played in the midfield and up forward and finished off his work with three goals.