Having recently retired from writing footy match reports, I am moved to ‘come out of retirement’ following the magnificent second semi-final win that ensured participation in Premier A in 2020, during the much awaited centenary year of the club, and the subsequent, stunning and extraordinary performance in the Premier B Grand Final.
On Saturday 7th September 2019, we were witness to a thrilling, hard won one point second semi-final win, that not only guaranteed CGFC entry to Premier A in 2020 in what will be a celebratory, milestone season but presented an opportunity to win another senior premiership.
I must also mention the fantastic win by the ‘dirty thirds’, as they like to be known, coached by one of CGFC’s most passionate members, himself a senior premiership player, William Bowes and watched over and supported by the one and only Matthew Scholten, also a premiership player and past President. Well done lads; your spirit and passion was well rewarded.
In the seniors’ second semi-final Scotch had us covered in height in some key areas and the call up of Tate Short to the VFL Bulldogs certainly robbed us off a key, marking defender whose form this season has been both spectacularly breathtaking and so often a launching pad for attack. During the 2nd semi I gave particular credit to Nathan Peterson who was superb in the air, either marking or spoiling while helping to plug the hole inevitably left by Tate’s absence. Well nothing changed when Tate was subsequently injured during the ‘big dance’ as Nathan again stepped up. In the grand final and the heat of the first quarter and into the second, Joey McClelland was at his very best always maintaining balance superbly to stifle Scotch’s opportunities. I have never underestimated Joe Mac’s presence as a defender, nor his ability to weave through traffic to start an offensive manoeuvre. Jared Risol made it an excellent, defensive triumvirate early in the game and later rounded off his contribution with some excellent rucking against the Old Scotch giant! “Ris” has been a terrific acquisition this season and ‘oozes’ versatility and commitment. Even when being interchanged his commitment to make it quick and effective has not gone unnoticed. It’s a fact that the whole back six operated superbly as a team within a team and more than a dozen time placed their bodies on the line to extinguish the Scotchie’s attacks. Regardless of who makes up the back six at any one time in this team I would leave my grandkids in their care under fire! Bravery, accountability and concentration were but three of their responsibilities that were met time and time again. As much as I would like to ‘wax lyrical’ of the 2nd semi victory I must move on to “the big dance” on Saturday 21st September, an occasion of momentousness for the blue and white army that gathered, clearly in greater numbers than the opposition.
Rather than provide a ‘running commentary’ style report I prefer to convey my thoughts more on the efforts of the individuals that spring to mind - commencing with a couple of warriors that unfortunately suffered injuries at the wrong time. Tom Small honestly proffered his doubt as to full fitness in the lead up to the second semi, an honest move for the betterment of the team at the time but no doubt costly in relation to selection for the grand final. Tom likes to lead by example and although his versatile skill set would have been valuable in the GF his decision is to be admired. Jesse Toniolo has enjoyed a fine season and I am sure was seen to be a key element of the forward set up before unfortunately being injured and unable to offer his presence for selection on September 21. Jesse’s season has been one of noticeable importance to our scoring capabilities. Both players, and others such as Charlie Logan were unfortunate to cop injuries at critical times but had made significant contributions.
In my active days of footy responsibilities I had a penchant for forwards, especially the key ones, to take ownership of situations, other than when they were being given the ball on a plate. I expected and demanded that they put away their idiosyncrasies when their team was under siege and become infantry when needed. Big Jules doesn’t need any such reminding. His preparedness to crash the packs and create a 50/50 opportunity when unable to take the grab himself makes him doubly, dangerous up forward and his powerful shots for goal allows him the licence to shoot from seemingly difficult angles. Jule’s impact on the group was never more evident then when he got us over the line at Geelong College but in the grand final, although not able to get easy goals and being targeted by the opposition even before the opening bounce, he simply worked overtime to create contests, whilst ignoring the manhandling and absorbing the physicality for the benefit of his surrounding team mates. He was a true example of the consummate team man. Goalless until the third term his work rate was inspirational and not once did he show duress from the physicality applied to him. What an asset to CGFC.
Scotch had obviously targeted Will Edwards, and others, as evidenced by the erroneous tactics prior to and immediately following the opening bounce. ‘Wilbur’ as always would work through the challenge and gain important 50/50 possessions as the game wore on. No wonder the State selectors included him in the combined squad. Keegan Stewart bore the brunt of much of the physical aggression up forward and was to play his positive part as the game wore on and he absorbed much of the Scotch aggression in the first half. ‘Keegs’ allowed our smaller players to have more accessibility to the loose ball. All the while ‘Ossie’ created access with his ability to get clear, gather and evade any oncoming challenge. No wonder the work was put in to entice “Oss” to forget about playing thirds/reserves footy a few seasons ago. Nathan Page consistently exudes poise and precision and really stepped it up in the second quarter with two excellent goals that helped gain momentum at a critical time. Jack Wallace also displayed his wares in superb fashion at various stages and especially with critical goals in the first half and the elusive and superbly balanced Lachie Stephen made the ground look completely dry when it was in fact wet. Lachie’s best on ground could not be denied although I could find another dozen who could have been justifiably rewarded such was the brilliance of the team as a combine. Just when I wanted to see more of Will Barker’s ability at the forefront he booted a major and provided the run and class that so typifies his game.
The second term had been fantastic for the Fields at a time when the Scotchies were due to feature. By half time there was clear issues for Scotch whose coach had receded from his usual, directional tirades along the boundary line that practically counteracted the role of his runner. It was at this stage that the first signs of Caulfield’s control sent the Scotch coach to the bunker from which he rarely emerge; he knew they were in trouble! The second quarter had been an excellent period for the ‘Fields’ with Dec Reilly inspired and when he is in that form he is inspirational and a true leader. Jack Woodman was outstanding whilst gaining control up back and launching some left foot bombs to immediately revert pressure on to the opposition. Sammy Dorevitch continued to gain confidence and was making the most of the opportunities awarded to him. All the while the redoubtable Jared Risol met each challenge as assigned by the coaching staff and Joey McClelland left less than an inch between him and his direct opponent. How similar is Joe’s loping style to his Dad’s gait for those of us who well remember Macca’s halcyon days of Woodrow Medal fame! Joey is one of those you just wouldn’t want to line up on if you were looking for an opportunistic day with the ball!
The omnipresence of BJ was evident in the first half without him racking up possessions. There was no doubt Brendon’s presence and direction was more than comforting in the first half pressure moments and Tim Nixon’s leadership was essential at this time, among numerous others. Going into the main break with a healthy surplus was encouraging but Simon would sum it up perfectly without the distraction of any over-confidence. There was a warranted feeling of an opportunity that was not to be missed but clear minds were essential. I’ll remember Tom Green’s lifting goal (in the 1st term) for some time plus the fact he played out the game with plenty of lower leg discomfort and Jack Wallace’s consummate shots on goal in that first half.
One had to really feel for Tate’s gut wrenching injury in the first half, he is such a star. Although the boys were certainly on top by half time, everyone wanted a piece of it. Theo’s Thompson’s surety and poise was telling, as always. There was not a passenger in the blue and white but considerable concern and agitation within the Cardinal Camp! Did I spy some Scotchies leaving early? I sure did!
The third term was a magnificent display of football by Simon’s charges with constant surges forward despite the slippery conditions and BJ, the skipper and Jules all took advantage of opportunities to goal whilst Nick Baltas upped the ante, took the game on and looked like a celebrated, seasoned veteran. His vision and balance is superb and so important given his current light frame. Nathan Peterson was brilliant and seemingly making up for the absence of his injured mate Tate with brilliant spoiling in the air and long, driving deliveries out of defence.
Another highlight throughout the game was Jack Webster’s calmness under pressure and his usual meticulous use of the footy and Lachie Harris’ interceptions, balance and ability to find the mark was invariably brilliant. I noted the bravado was lessening in the Scotch camp and they were realising that actions speak louder than words but the majority of their actions were meek at best. I also stopped to admire the stoicness of the defence, the work rate of the on-ball brigade and the leadership by more than just the leadership group. With an already unassailable lead by three quarter time there was no relenting by Caulfield and I got the feeling into the final quarter that the lads were not satisfied with the impregnable score line, rather they all wanted to present an occasion that would be indelibly printed in the minds of all of us in attendance. I recall Jared Risol’s enthusiasm as if he and others never wanted the occasion to conclude and I had the pleasure of removing one of Ris’ detractors from the interchange box. BJ, Ossie, Jules and Lachie made sure the scoreboard kept ticking over and the end neared. It’s not often that one can honestly state that not one Grammarian lowered their colours on the day as I took some time to cast a glance toward Simon, Marcel and Jeffrey. I also took a moment to reflect on how Scottie Williams must be feeling. CGFC owe much to this wonderful clubman although he expects no accolades.
When the final siren sounded and Scotch’s torment concluded, the vast numbers following the blue and white team celebrated accordingly, whilst Pete Small and his fellow contributors could relax and soak it all up. For mine, I could not recall a more comprehensive victory in my 50 plus years of watching ‘Ammo’ finals and I have missed only a handful during that time. It was also time to think of others whose support and contributions were being rewarded. One of the true pleasantries during the post-match excitement was to run into Lou Wilson, daughter and representative of the late and great John and Liz Wilson. Louise acknowledged how special J A and Liz would have felt. When I coached against CGFC many years ago, at a time when the Grammarians were really struggling, it was John and Liz in the main who ensured that CGFC fought against the odds to rebuild their reputation. I came to admire the Wilson’s even more when they offered their support during my time as CGFC senior coach, they were exceptional people.
It also cannot be unstated the leadership, guidance & contribution our current President Peter Small & his wife Julia have made to our footy club. Their tireless work & dedication is a testament to them & their extended family.
Past Club Presidents, Bill White, Matt Scholten, Richard Harris and Warwick Watson to name a few of many past administrators, were there to join in the observance of a magnificent occasion and many of the family members of players that I have come to know were also soaking it all up. Stephen Newton as co Patron of the club and outstanding supporter during his time as School Principal was another to experience the wonderful occasion that was the presentation ceremony. Current CGS Principal Ashley Martin was also in attendance & would have no doubt great pride in the sense of community amongst all Caulfield Grammarian supporters.
There was also a large contingent of our historic Premier B “Premiership” winning women’s team present, who along with the men’s teams & our U19’s will all experience the challenge of Premier A in 2020 our centenary year.
And so on behalf of the many regular supporters we salute everyone, including Rachael & her medical support group, who built the team into the fantastic machine that won a premiership with such a meritorious display. The Club’s centenary season in 2020 will present its challenges but the standard has been set. Well played everyone and again, on behalf of all of us that were there to see such a memorable achievement, our heartiest congratulations.