West Preston-Lakeside claimed the 2018 Northern Football Netball League Division 1 premiership with a nine-point victory over Macleod in an enthralling grand final.
The Roosters resisted every challenge from the Roos to record the 11.12 (78) to 9.15 (69) victory at Preston City Oval to claim the club’s first senior men’s premiership since 2010.
Towering ruckman Mark Kovacevic was dominant for the Roosters and capped off an impressive finals series with best on ground honours in the decider.
Luke Lirosi impressed on the big stage once again and was named among the best players, while Liam McVeigh and Aidan Tilley were also influential.
McVeigh booted four goals in a dominant display up forward, with Ahmed Saad and Patrick Karnezis also chipping in with two goals apiece.
For Macleod, Brad Leggett was a tower of strength, while Anthony Doherty and Justin White were also influential.
Reid Brandt and late inclusion Ben Lennon were solid up forward, booting three goals apiece, while Anthony Doherty slotted two of his own.
Both sides lost key players before the first bounce. Frank Rosbrook medallist Lucas Hobbs was unable to prove his fitness after sustaining a hamstring injury in Macleod’s second semi final win, while Ozgur Uysal was sidelined with a hamstring injury that hampered his finals series.
West Preston-Lakeside won the toss and elected to kick with the favourable breeze blowing to the market end of Preston City Oval.
After an expected tight start to the match, the Roosters kicked the first goal through Saad, however Macleod was able to hit back through goals to Lennon and Brandt midway through the quarter.
Two goals to Liam McVeigh, including a bouncing effort from the middle of the ground, and a second to Saad in the final moments of the first term saw the Roosters head into the first break 10 points ahead.
Lennon kicked his third goal in the opening minute of the second quarter as Macleod looked to capitalise on the breeze, however the Roos could only manage a further seven behinds before McVeigh booted his third goal for the Roosters against the run of play.
The injury news got worse for Macleod, as Frank Rosbrook Medal runner-up Ned McKeown went down with a knee injury in a marking contest. The star defender tried bravely to return in the second half but only managed to last a few minutes.
West Preston-Lakeside was also limited to three players on the bench after Joel McDonald was sidelined after sustaining a concussion midway through the second term.
With the Roosters looking set to take a lead into half time. Anthony Doherty stood up for the Roos. The mercurial forward booted two goals in the final two minutes of the half, including one after the siren, to give his side an eight-point lead at the main break.
The intensity picked up once again in the third term as Reid Brandt slotted his second to extend Macleod’s advantage to 14 points.
With Kovacevic exerting his influence in the ruck, West Preston-Lakeside was able to get the game back on its terms. The Roosters booted the next four majors through McVeigh, Lirosi and Karnezis (two) to take an 11-point lead into the last change.
The lead could have been greater but for some missed set shots late in the term, including two to Ahmed Saad that only just missed.
With the premiership on the line, the match lifted another notch early in the fourth quarter as the two sides wrestled for momentum.
Billy Barden laid a crunching tackle and was able to kick truly from the resulting free kick to cut the deficit to five points.
After a 10-minute arm-wrestle that saw both defences hold sway, Aidan Tilley got forward for the Roosters to take an uncontested mark 15m out and boot a goal to steady his side.
Reid Brandt booted his third goal out of congestion at the 23-minute mark to put his side right back in the match, trailing by just three points.
However, West Preston-Lakeside was quick to restore its nine-point buffer – winning the next centre clearance, where the ball fell to Carl Adams running back with the flight. He converted with a spearing kick from close range in what proved to be the sealer.
After a tense final few minutes the Roosters faithful stormed the field as the siren sounded and delivered the club’s second premiership in 2018, after the women’s side won the Division 2 flag in August.
For Macleod, a third successive grand final defeat will leave a bitter taste after losing just two matches in the home and away season. The Roos now look towards 2019 and life without coach Garry Ramsay.
Final score: Macleod 9.15 (69) def by West Preston-Lakeside 11.12 (78)