Old Paradians have achieved the ultimate goal, defeating Whitefriars by 20 points at Highgate Reserve in the Preliminary Final, earning them a well-deserved promotion into Division 1 and a spot in the Grand Final. After being undefeated for the first 14 rounds, the Raiders stumbled over recent weeks, but regrouped to record a victory against the odds. Old Parade withstood a surging Whitefriars who came hard in the third term to snatch the lead, but lifted again late to run home comfortable winners.
The Raiders applied immense first quarter pressure as they kicked four unanswered goals and shook the Friars’ defence early. Again, in the second term, play was all in the Raider’s favour, but their failings to capitalise in front of goal (five points from seven scoring shots) meant the Friars could hold a glimmer of hope leading into half-time. But, in true Whitefriars spirit, a comeback was imminent as they came out a fresh side after half time.
The only multiple goal kicker for the Friars was trouper Michael Nitas, who, as he has done all season, led his side’s third quarter fightback, booting three and was the catalyst for the Friars to pile on six goals to Parade’s one. The Friars went into the final break with a five-point lead, but Parade had more left in the tank, as, spearheaded by James Kandilakis with five goals (in his best return for the season), they went on to boot six majors to Whitefriars one and seal victory. The Whitefriars have been known this season to come back and play strong second halves, but their chances missed in the first half proved costly in the end, as they spent all of their energy on their comeback and were unable to sustain the pressure and close out the game. The return of power forward Michael Boundy brought structure back into the Raider’s forward line- something they have been missing since Boundy bowed out injured over recent weeks. His three goals steadied the Raiders’ ship, but it was down back where Parade really shone.
The Raiders’ back men conceded only eight goals for the game and managed to shut down the high-scoring and multi-facetted Friars forward line, stopping the likes of Lewis Neate and Kristan Height from applying any scoreboard pressure.
Ciaran Hickey led the gallant Friars boys with one goal and was supported on the day by Marlon Simbolon, while Michael Nitas closed out his stellar season in fine style. The Friars boys were keen to return to Division 1 but fell short at the final hurdle. They however should not be disappointed with their 2018 campaign, after only winning 2 games in 2017 in Division 1 and have a young and capable team for 2019.
Old Paradians now get a crack at UHS-VU in the Division 2 Grand Final next week and this time they’ll be looking to bounce back after losing the Second Semi Final to the same Vultures outfit.
In the battle of the high schools in the Reserves Preliminary Final,MHSOB led all day to record a comfortable 28-point victory over favourites UHS-VU. Lukas Toman led the way with three goals, ably supported by James McWhinney with two, while Ollie Miles and Tom Norton led the way for the Unicorns. James McGhee booted two goals for the Vultures, while Ethan Clarke and Kynan Barnes flew the flag.
The Unicorns will now take on Whitefriars next week in the Reserves Grand Final.
GRAND FINAL PREVIEW:
UHS-VU vs Old Paradians
At the start of this season, UHS-VU had nothing to lose and Old Paradians had everything to prove. Flash forward more than 20 weeks and they’re meeting in the biggest game of the 2018 season. They’ve both shown up to this point that they are capable of hurting teams across the ground both in defence and attack, but the Grand Final always tells a different tale.
Last time these two sides met was only two weeks ago in the Semi Final, where UHS-VU came out on top by 16 points. Since then, the Raiders took apart one of the highest scoring teams in the Division – Whitefriars – and are on an upward trajectory. It’s a mental and tactical battle as much as it is about physicality and skill. The winner will be the side who can shut down their opponents early on in front of goal. During the season, these sides met in Round 16, when UHS-VU comprehensively beat the Raiders by 57 points, holding Parade to only five goals all day. Before that in Round 4, it was the Raiders who came out 22 point winners.
The Raiders in recent weeks have struggled to kick winning scores, due largely to the loss of key forward Michael Boundy and the impact on their forward structure. But his return last week (3 goals) has already steadied their ship as he proves to be a hard-to-beat target up forward. Old Parade’s recent catalyst is their ability to shut down sides and keep them to lower-than-average scores. Last week, they kept the highest scoring side in the competition, Whitefriars to only eight goals and the week before that, kept UHS-VU to well below their season average. Put simply, if the Raiders can hold UHS-VU to a low score by ensuring their defensive pressure is on from the first bounce, then they’re a better chance to claim the cup.
On the other hand, Uni High are in great shape. The Vultures are well rested and in fine form and will stop at nothing to go all the way. The key to victory will be goal scoring machine Brandon Jackson, who is in rare recent form. The Vulture’s midfield bats deep and prides itself on two-way running, congesting opposition forward lines while running ahead of the ball scoring freely.
It’ll be a battle of the bests. It’s Brandon Jackson and his spread of goal kickers against a miserly Parade defence.
Can Gerard Hawkins and his tight UHS-VU defence shut down key target Michael Boundy and the surprise packet James Kandilakis who is finding form at the right time of the year?
The midfield battle between James Healy and his UHS-VU spread and Parade’s Warren Jeffrey and Anthony D Souza will be one to watch.
Old Paradians’ Senior Coach Ryan Smith, who is looking for Paradians’ first flag since 2015, is up against the experienced Brendan Payne who orchestrated Uni High’s Division 3 Premiership win last year and is preparing to go back-to-back, on the back of a 35-4 winning record over the past two seasons
UHS-VU have taken the last two wins out of their three meetings this year and will go in as favourites, but Old Paradians are en-route to cause an upset if they can apply the defensive pressure while also unlocking their forward structure.
This game is truly showcasing the best sides of Division 2, but there can be only one winner who holds the Cup.
TIP: UHS-VU to go back-to-back
In the Reserves Grand Final,it is MHSOB taking on Whitefriars in what is set to be a tight battle. Whitefriars have enjoyed their week off and will be ready to take on an up-and-about Unicorns side. MHSOB made the Preliminary Final last year, falling short to Prahran Assumption by only one point after leading all day. The Unicorns are looking for redemption and fancy their chances.
MHSOB will need to keep their eyes on Friars Ben Kelsey and Ben Tatterson whose form all year has been strong while Jack Zita up front has led the way.
On the other side, the twin threats up forward for MHSOB will be Lukas Toman (23 goals this season) and James McWhinney, while Ben Hennessy, Shannon Keough and Ollie Miles will be their keys.
While the Friars finished on top with 15 key wins this season, the Unicorns run to the finals has been a strong one, so it may well be a big upset come Grand Final day.
TIP: MHSOB to beat Whitefriars