Well knock me down and call me Russell, what a thriller. WHAT A GAME.
The most poetic initiation to finals football you will ever come across in AFL football.
It was absolute scenes in the final regular season Round 18 at Kanebridge Oval on Saturday afternoon, amidst windy conditions East Coast fell agonizingly short of an upset victory over table topping North Shore, 8.6.54 to 8.5.53.
The Eagles required victory against the competition heavyweight Bombers to ensure a welcomed finals berth, yet defeat and they leave their fate in the control of fierce local rivals Pennant Hills who faced their own challenge against UNSW.
For 3 quarters, it seemed like East Coast would pull off the victory, be the smarter and most adaptive side in the tricky gameday conditions.
East Coast led at every break, determined and dogged to fulfill the first step in achieving their BM18 goal.
The writing was on the wall for North Shore.
The Eagles were soaring, displaying magnificent will and strength at the contest, pulled the trigger and controlled the pace throughout, but stumbled at the final hurdle of the very last line.
2 goals down and time ticking, the Bombers dug deep to scratch and claw down the deficit.
That they did, with a plucky late behind, North Shore won the match, by just one point.
The final siren, was luck a gun shot to the heavens dispatching of innocent eagles who flew above, such was the silence and heartbreak in the hearts of East Coast Eagle players.
Then came the news Pennant Hills were up on their opponents, a dagger to the soul.
Pennant Hills did indeed win, but not by enough and the Eagles survived the regular season by just 0.46% on the ladder.
Oh what a mess.
What a horror story.
Its no laughing matter, but boy you gotta smile.
What a relief and what a chance East Coast have earnt.
The challenge is now to become the 2nd side in two years, to climb the mountain and win the Premiership from 5th place.
Arguably the best performance of the year before finals. That is exactly the message the Eagles want to be sending their finals competition.
Aaron Drinkwater was remarkable again on Saturday, hitting peak form at the right time, as is terrier Brandon Clark, the most consistent warrior in East Coast’s clutches. Youngster Lewis Waters had his best game as well, proving his worth as a backline CAGE mainstay.
The story of the finals is shaping as a maze of possibilities.
All sides 2nd-5th have had such similar seasons results wise. UNSW, Syndey Uni, Manly and East Coast can beat any of each other on any day.
I firmly believe the tagline throughout the finals series will be ‘Who can catch North Shore?’, and after the weekends result, whose to say it won’t be East Coast despite only holidng 5th spot.
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
East Coast Eagles 3.2-20 4.2-26 7.4-46 8.5-53
North Shore Bombers 1.1-7 3.3-21 5.4-34 8.6-54
East Coast Eagles
Goal Kickers: J. Vlatko 2, D. Costello, B. Clark, R. Haupt, D. Visser, M. Weekes, A. Drinkwater
Best Players: A. Drinkwater, B. Clark, L. Waters, J. Vlatko, R. Haupt, A. Browning
North Shore Bombers
Goal Kickers: M. Wilson 2, W. Blackburne 2, B. Plug, M. Thomas, K. Devlin, Z. Fyffe
Best Players: C. Parsons, N. Campbell, S. Crane, K. Devlin, M. Wilson, C. Murphy
Final 2018 Sydney AFL Home and Away Season Ladder
POS TEAM P W L D F A % PTS
1 North Shore Bombers 18 16 2 0 1963 1049 187.13 64
2 UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs 18 12 6 0 1480 1094 135.28 48
3 Sydney University 18 11 7 0 1648 1161 141.95 44
4 Manly Warringah Wolves 18 11 7 0 1485 1153 128.79 44
5 East Coast Eagles 18 11 7 0 1222 1024 119.34 44
6 Pennant Hills Demons 18 11 7 0 1543 1298 118.88 44
7 St George Dragons 18 7 11 0 1260 1594 79.05 28
8 Camden Cats 18 5 13 0 1224 1632 75.00 20
9 UTS Bats 18 4 14 0 1027 1713 59.95 16
10 Western Suburbs Magpies 18 2 16 0 886 2020 43.86 8
Elsewhere at East Coast, Matt O’Connor’s Prems Reserves side officially qualified for finals footy, beating Week 1 opponents North Shore by 4 goals on Saturday. Reserves finished 4th and look forward to an exciting blockbuster of a finals series.
The Under 19’s finished 5th place, yet, a long way off finals footy pace. A solid year for Peter Van Vliet’s young men, plenty of positives and reason to believe 2019 can be their year.
Also, Div2 well and truly left right goodnighted their North Shore opponents on Saturday, winning a 4th game for the season to finish 9th. With that victory, they knocked the Bombers out of finals contention. A much better year for Michal Lambert’s team.
But the strongest placed side for the Eagles going into finals, are the EAGALS. Our Womens Div1 team lost to minor Premiers Wollongong on the weekend, but will return to finals footy, finishing 3rd, and setting up a Week 1 elimination clash against arch rivals Pennant Hills. Phil Bester’s women are without a doubt ready to rumble.
The good times are upon us. The best time of year.
The rollercoaster ride begins again, and everyone at East Coast Eagles cannot wait.