Redbacks out, Rupo favourite

Rupertswood has emerged as a very short-priced favourite to take out the Riddell League’s 2019 football premiership, advancing straight into the grand final with an unanswered six-goal last quarter blitz against Diggers Rest in the second semi-final on Saturday.
Then Wallan showed its runaway elimination final win over Riddell was no fluke with a 35-point margin over Romsey on Sunday, the Redbacks going out of the finals in straight sets after finishing second on the ladder.
Thus the stage is set for this Saturday’s preliminary final at Romsey, with the vastly experienced Diggers Rest combination looking to halt the Magpies’ finals surge.
Recruited specifically to kick goals this season, Wallan’s elusive spearhead Matt Perri has proved a matchwinner for the Magpies in the finals, and five goals against Romsey took his season’s tally to 101 – a feat becoming rarer in country and suburban football.
Elated Wallan coach David Nolan said after the semi-final that while the Magpies had been hard hit by injuries, with few rating them any chance in the finals, an immense positive belief among the players had been created…they were looking for the momentum to continue.
Reflective Romsey coach Corey O’Sullivan said the Redbacks had been disappointing when it mattered; it would now be a matter of sitting down and reviewing the season, and trying to see how they can become better (in 2020).
He did not use injuries as an excuse (big men Ben Way and Blake Henderson were sidelined on Sunday, although Jaidyn Caruana and Chris Burkett returned).
O’Sullivan said some of the club’s talented younger players had to do plenty of the “heavy lifting” in the finals games, and he was pleased with how they had performed.
Meanwhile Diggers Rest’s playing coach Jamie Lobb had a realistic outlook and pointed out his side was on the same path that brought them a premiership last season.
He acknowledged Rupertswood are hard to topple when they get a run on, as occurred in the last quarter on the large Clarke Oval at Sunbury.
Lobb expects his side to bounce back in the preliminary final and earn another crack at Rupertswood in the grand final on Sunday, September 15.
Medal night
Tomorrow (Wednesday) evening attention will switch to who wins the coveted Bowen and Ryan Medals when the league’s holds its annual presentation night at Taylors Lakes.
There does not appear to be any strong consensus about the likely winners, given that some top-line players have missed matches through injuries or other reasons.
Teams of the Year for football and netball will also be announced.
It’s fair to say the Rupertswood club had an astonishing weekend, winning six of the seven second semi-finals (football and netball) in which the Sharks were competing.
This factor, and the absence of any teams from the strong Riddell club, could have a detrimental impact on attendance numbers at the preliminary final.
Rain stops recovery chance
Conditions were fine and pleasant when the first semi-final began at Romsey on Sunday, and the Magpies included U19s player Blaide Dickson for his first senior game.
Almost immediately Wallan had a goal on the board, kicking to the southern end favoured by a breeze.
The Redbacks were under siege as Perri soon made his presence felt, finally the Redbacks scored a goal when left-footer Joel Naylor marked and kicked truly from the flank. Naylor repeated the feat late in the term but the Magpies had their tails up with six goals for the term.
Romsey attacked unsuccessfully for a period in the second term before Perri sidestepped two defenders and goaled.
While the home side had the majority of play, they missed some chances and their three goals, two from Nathan Blair, were matched by the Magpies with more efficient ball use.
The last thing Romsey wanted was rain in the third quarter, with congested play and conditions in favour of defenders. Redbacks’ prayers weren’t answered and it was an uphill battle as they failed to score in the entire term term.
Wallan players and supporters celebrated Perri’s 100th goal for the season, and the last quarter became predictable as both sides struggled to score.
Jackson Mills finally produced a late goal for the Redbacks, and Wallan replied, as the rain eased.

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