By Mitch Guy
FISH CREEK has pulled off the upset of the year, storming home in the final quarter to defeat hot favourites Phillip Island and book a spot in this weekís grand final.
The spirited team effort by the Kangaroos, over a tired-looking Bulldogs, capped off a fabulous day of footy and netball at the preliminary finals at Tarwin.
Phillip Islandís stocks took a hit during the week when captain Jaymie Youle was ruled out with an ankle injury and ruckman Dan Harders withdrew with a calf complaint; the return of key midfielder Jimmy Taylor and runner Aaron Edwards softened the blow for the Bulldogs.
Fish Creek’s Andrew Seccull returned to the Kangaroos’ side with a plate inserted in his cheek after sustaining a fractured eye socket four weeks ago.
He wore a helmet to offer some protection and proved the difference in the contest, booting five goals.
With hardly a breath of wind at Tarwin and clear skies, the match began in Fish Creek’s favour with Brent Cooper marking strongly on the lead in front of opponent Mark Griffin and registering the first goal of the day.
Slick work by Todd Mackie, who was lively across half forward early, led to another goal for the underdogs.
He dodged two players and dished the handball to Callan Park who burst forward unmarked and finished well to give the Kangaroos the early ascendency.
Phillip Island had a breakthrough when Shane Taylor sent a long ball over the top to livewire Beau Runnalls who stopped, propped and burned two opponents to snap a much-needed goal.
Fish Creek’s constant pressure on the ball carrier caused Phillip Island turnovers and led to further shots on goal, but the Kangaroosí inaccuracy let the Bulldogs off the hook with a return of 2.7 to hold an eight-point lead at quarter time.
The Bulldogs bounced back after the first break when Jack Taylor was awarded a free kick for a high tackle and kicked truly.
The Kangaroos had the instant reply when Seccull kicked his first goal of the day on the run, before Mackie intercepted an Island kick out of defence and calmly slotted an important major to put the Kangaroos on top.
The Island started to find their mojo after the slow start with James Taylor winning the ball at stoppages and Josh Docherty taking grabs across half back.
Their efforts went unrewarded however as Fish Creek’s continual pressure didn’t allow any easy shots at goal and subsequently the Island registered four behinds in a row.
Brendan Kimber found Ben Van Brummelen on the lead and he gave the Island faithful something to cheer about with the set shot goal, to cut the deficit to five points at half time.
The play began to seesaw between forward 50s after half time with Jimmy Taylor kicking the first goal to give the Island the lead for the first time.
With the likes of Marcus Wright and Lachie Cleeland creating run off half back, the Island moved the ball coast to coast and delivered to Runnalls who finished the impressive play.
But with Gareth Park, Tom Fusinato and Ash Snooks winning the midfield battle for Fish Creek, the Kangaroos continued to take it up to the Bulldogs.
Cal Park roved a pack 25m out from goal and snapped truly in traffic as the sides went goal for goal.
Phillip Island continued to pepper the goals to no avail, before a Jimmy Taylor snap gave his side a nine-point buffer as three-quarter time approached.
But the never-say-die attitude of the Kangaroos shone during time-on, when Cal Park sent a ball forward that brother Gareth gathered, before turning and delivering a short pass to Seccull who left his opponent in his wake.
He slotted his second goal of the day to bring the match back to level-pegging.
A scrambled kick forward by Fish Creek saw Cooper hold onto a brave mark running with the flight, just a second before the siren sounded.
His kick hit the boot sweetly and sailed through to regain a one-point lead going into the final term.
It was anyoneís game at three-quarter time but the young Fish Creek side took the match by the scruff of the neck and stood up when it counted.
Two quick goals to Seccull gave his side breathing space and when a disputed ball came out to Fusinato, he banged through a long goal to give the Kangaroos an 18-point lead.
Phillip Island was given a glimmer of hope when Jack Taylor, running on from the interchange bench, found Jimmy Taylor inside 50.
Despite suffering cramp, Taylor took his kick and managed a goal to give the Bulldogs a glimmer of hope.
Gareth Park, Fusinato and Justin Smith were vital in the final stages, as Seccull earned a holding the ball decision and kicked his fifth goal of the day to sink the Bulldogs.
The Kangaroos were now running rings around the reigning premiers and they well and truly deserved the unexpected victory.
Eighteen year-old Gus Staley’s job on Runnalls went a long way towards the win, but across the board it was a sterling team effort from the Kangaroos.
Fish Creek will take a great deal of confidence from Saturday’s performance and are every chance of pulling off another upset when they tackle the undefeated Dalyston in this weekís grand final at Meeniyan.
Moments that mattered
Gusty Seccull’s heroics
When Fish Creek’s Andrew Seccull suffered a fractured eye-socket in the Round 18 match against Toora, he was expected to be ruled out for the remainder of the season.
Fast-forward to Saturday and the prodigious talent was extraordinarily running around for the Kangaroos.
He spent most of the day in the forward 50 and proved to be the match-winner, booting five majors for the day including back to back goals in the final term to give his side the upper hand.
Seccull said he had a plate inserted recently and copped a couple of knocks during Saturdayís clash, but came through unscathed.
“I havenít played in a grand final in 12 years, so of course I’m going to play,” he said with a smile following the win.
Fish Creek’s Joeys shine
Fish Creek’s juniors stepped up to the plate on the weekend playing in the senior grand final: 17-year-old Gareth Park was irresistible through the middle, Gus Staley had the better of Phillip Island forward Beau Runnalls and Jake Buckland shared the honours in a riveting matchup with Bulldog young gun Jack Taylor.
Park’s Power black out
Fish Creekís Ethan Park stepped out for Gippsland Power in the TAC Cup on Saturday as the Power were defeated by Oakleigh Chargers and knocked out of the finals.
The loss proves handy for the Kangaroos, with Park now available for the grand final.
According to Fish Creek officials he would be a walk-up start for the grand final side, but will have to overcome a hamstring complaint from Saturdayís TAC Cup match.
Another impressive crowd at Tarwin
The sun brought out 2,161 spectators who paid $14,539 as the rain and wind held off at Tarwin for a fine day of footy and netball.
The surface was immaculate and a great day of country footy and netball was enjoyed by all.
Coach’s Box with Fish Creek’s Kevin Barnes
“IT WAS just a full team effort like the previous week.
I thought our on-ballers were on top and the pressure was great, which is something that we always work on.
Everyone played their part and did their job.
There’s no doubt they had some injury issues and had a few guys out so that certainly helped our cause.
They were playing a couple of guys injured, but in saying that you can only beat who’s out there.
It’s a credit to Phillip Island the way they turned out to play after a tough week.
The game was played in excellent spirit – it was tough, hard country footy played in excellent spirit.
I thought our on-ballers got us across the line.”