The Northern Football Netball League (NFNL) will next year have a shot at the number one spot on the AFL Victoria Community Championships rankings after defeating the Mornington Peninsula Nepean Football League (MPNFL).
The NFNL used an eight-goal to two second half to run away 12.17 (89) to 7.7 (49) victors in a physical encounter at Preston City Oval.
Coach Garry Ramsay lauded his side’s ability to flip the script on their 30-point loss to the MPNFL in 2016.
“I thought we matched them physically. Last time they probably bullied us a little bit but today the boys hooked in really well,” he said.
“I think we landed nearly 90 tackles in an interleague game, which is a really good effort and that comes from a side that’s invested.”
Ramsay said all 24 players deserved to be recognised for the runaway win, with every player in the squad having an impact in some way.
“This group was 100% invested and that’s what probably made this an enjoyable day. It wasn’t about one bloke kicking 10 goals,” he said.
“Some of their efforts and sharing the ball in the last quarter, we may have overused it a couple of times, but I was super pleased that even when we were winning, they still tried to look after each other.”
Eltham’s Anton Woods put in a trademark display in midfield, claiming best afield honours for the NFNL. The star ball winner said winning the medal was “icing on the cake”.
“I feel really honoured just being a part of this team that really bought in,” Woods said.
“I think the quality jumps up from local footy and we know that and that’s why we play these games. We want to challenge ourselves as individuals and play the best possible footy we can.”
Greensborough’s Nick Riddle and North Heidelberg’s Jhye Baddeley-Kelly were also named among the best for their efforts in defence.
At the other end, Montmorency’s Danko Bzenic and Bundoora’s Josh Grabowski were influential, however it was Bzenic’s fellow Magpie teammate Patrick Fitzgerald who stole the show, kicking four goals. Macleod’s Reid Brandt kicked two of his own.
The MPNFL burst out of the blocks and took advantage of some wayward kicking by the NFNL, booting 3.3 to 0.7 in the first term.
A Ned McKeown bullet hit Fitzgerald on the chest for the NFNL’s first goal early in the second term, sparking a four-goal to one quarter for the home side to take a six-point lead into the main break.
Fitzgerald benefited from the NFNL’s star-studded midfield once again in the third term, kicking the side’s only two goals as they stretched their lead to 13 points at the final change.
The floodgates opened in the last quarter after Josh Grabowski showed desperation to keep the ball in before snapping to find Fitzgerald for his fourth.
The NFNL then piled on another five goals to stretch the margin to 51 points, before two late goals to the MPNFL pulled the final margin back to 40.
NFNL captain Jesse Donaldson said it had been an honour to lead the league for a third-straight season – this time taking on the mantle alone following an injury to Matthew Dennis.
“It’s a huge honour not only to represent the league but to be lucky enough to lead this bunch of blokes,” he said.
“Playing in games like this you see the players you play against in a different light. For so long you’re up against them and you’re trying to knock them down but now you’re embracing the strengths they’ve all got.”
The NFNL will play off against the Eastern Football League in 2019 for the number one spot on the AFL Victoria Worksafe Community Championships rankings.
Final score: MPNFL 7.7 (49) def by NFNL 12.17 (89)
Kinglake Ranges News. First for Football.PHOTO: Nathan William Media/NWM Sports