By Max Davies
TENSIONS rose, tempers flared and dreams were crushed as Wallan’s senior footballers were served a Riddell District Football Netball League preliminary final defeat for the second year in a row.
The Magpies came into the match with high hopes having defeated adversaries Woodend-Hesket in both of their most recent meetings – including the qualifying final two weeks ago – and recorded a strong, yet disappointing, result in their defeat to Diggers Rest the week before.
But from the first bounce it was clear the Hawks had come to play, dominating defensively in the first quarter and only allowing the Magpies the chance for a solitary goal at the hands of Michael Baccari.
Heading into the second quarter with a 13-point deficit, it seemed Wallan began to find its feet as the team pushed quickly into the forward 50 and gave everything in defence to keep the Hawks scoreless for the remainder of the first half.
Matthew Perri kicked two goals late in the quarter followed by a spate of behinds, leaving his team ahead by four points at the long break.
Emotions boiled over as the siren went, with last-minute fights and tussles continuing as the teams headed back to Romsey Park’s change rooms.
The third quarter, however, saw a turnaround as Woodend-Hesket returned to the scoreboard with three goals and two behinds despite a spirited defensive effort from the likes of Wallan’s Brenton Cox.
An early call for holding the ball which resulted in a free kick to Jake Layley in Wallan’s 50 drifted wide for a behind, while Joshua Vilinskis was forced off with an injury as the Hawks kicked their first goal in more than half an hour at the seven-minute mark.
Woodend-Hesket’s Daniel Davie converted an impressive mark in front of goal with four minutes to go, closing the quarter with the Hawks leading Wallan 40 to 26.
A minute into the final term, Woodend-Hesket kicked another goal, which erupted the especially vocal Hawks’ crowd at Romsey Park.
Wallan’s desperation became clear as a long delivery from Corey Viani resulted in a bounce in front of goal, leading to a shot at goal for Angelos Sidhom that drifted wide, before Hayden Gill scored two minutes later.
Yet another fight broke out as play resumed, the scores remaining mostly unchanged before a desperate late charge from Sidhom resulted in a reassuring goal amid Woodend’s domination.
The Hawks scored the final goal of the match in the dying minutes, sending Wallan home with a 21-point defeat.
Wallan assistant coach Spencer Mathieson said apart from leading in the second half, the Hawks were consistently the better side on the day.
“We’re proud of our season, our young players got better every week, but we just couldn’t go with the Hawks in the second half and they deserved their win,” he said.
Woodend-Hesket will face Diggers Rest in Sunday’s grand final this weekend.
Also making the grand finals was the Burras’ reserves team, who defeated Woodend-Hesket on Saturday and will now gear up to face Wallan – the reserves side is the Magpies’ last hope for a premiership in the 2023 season.
Diggers Rest finished the season on top of the reserves ladder with Wallan second, however the Magpies defeated the Burras in last week’s semi-final to secure a direct pathway to the grand final.
Wallan’s under 19.5 team was dealt a thumping at the hands of the Gisborne Giants in the preliminary final, a bitter end to a strong finals campaign for the team who finished the season in fourth and knocked out second-placed Romsey in the semi-finals.
Gisborne will now face Macedon on Sunday, the Cats strong contenders following their 22-point victory over the Giants in their semi-final clash.
Wallan’s netball campaign came to an end at the weekend as its under 19 team was knocked out by Riddell in a 27-18 defeat.
The Magpies’ under 19s made it the furthest of any Wallan team in the finals – their preliminary final defeat a testament to a strong season-long effort.
All finals are to be played at Romsey Park, beginning at 9.30am on Sunday.