STONY Creek simply couldn’t buy a goal at Toora last Sunday.
And their inability to kick a major, even from close range, from dozens of opportunities, until Cam Stone roosted one through from beyond 50 metres just before half time, robbed this do-or-die final of the excitement it and the crowd deserved.
Not that Fish Creek’s supporters were concerned.
Having despatched Stony, the team that beat them by 21 points in Round 5, they now have their sights firmly set on Phillip Island after a lack-lustre effort against Dalyston on Saturday.
Under great pressure from Fish Creek, it must be said, Stony Creek found all sorts of ways to miss the goals. They bombed it high, long and uselessly into their forward line early, kicked points from close range or failed to even register a score from set shots and went in at quarter time with only two points to show for their efforts.
Fish Creek on the other hand, kicking with the aid of a useful breeze, banged on three goals (Cooper, Gus Staley, and Brooks) in the first 10 minutes of the match to get their campaign rolling and finished the quarter off with two more (Smith and Cooper) to hold a nice five-goal lead.
They were using the ball better and seemed to have more time; Rouda was instrumental in the middle along with Snooks, Fusinato and Callan Park while Manne was rarely beaten in the ruck or around the ground and they had a lively target in Brent Cooper.
Just prior to quarter time Stony had started to show signs of a pulse and they needed to respond when kicking to the scoring end in the second term, which they did, but oh dear, the goal kicking malaise had really taken hold by then.
At the start of the term, Josh Schelling found Kane Wille in the scoring zone but his long-shot went out on the full.
Jacob Byrnes led up strongly and marked soon after but missed a sitter, scoring a point.
After defending well, Stony got the ball forward to Josh Schelling again but it was only another point and in the next minute, Ben Maxwell over-shot his pass to Schelling and the Lions had found another way to mess up a good goal-kicking opportunity.
Even Fish Creek’s Brent Cooper missed from close range after a free kick but when Stony’s Maxwell hit the post soon after, you knew it just wasn’t going to be Stony’s day.
And there was no real excuse for it.
The surface of the Toora oval was in superb order, the day was fine and while there was a breeze, the wind turbines on Silcocks Hill above the ground were only gently turning over.
Some good forward pressure kept the ball in the Stony Creek forward line, however, where Cam Stone took a fine contested mark on the 50-metre arc.
After considering a pass, he took it upon himself to take the shot and slotted it through superbly from 52 metres.
Amazingly, Stony was only trailing Fish Creek by 4.1 at half time and despite their bad kicking, were still in the contest.
Two quick goals after the resumption, to Justin Smith, the recipient of a creative handpass from Aaron Ireland, and Cooper, on the lead to a useful pass from Cal Park snuffed out Stony’s hopes before they had really ignited.
Actually Stony had their best session of play from this time onwards, matching it with Fishy in general play, and they might have been the first team to score a goal at the Visitor’s Rooms end of the ground but several points by Jacob Byrnes as all they could register.
A good passage of play which featured Bowman, young Jimmy Monaghan (having a really good game), Myhal and finally Maxwell looked hopeful but… you guessed it, another point.
Maxwell re-doubled his efforts a minute or two later and kicked Stony’s second goal, thanks to the efforts of Schelling and Julian Stone.
But it hadn’t broken the curse and Maxwell missed a chance soon after to put Stony back in the contest with the Kangaroos noticeably off the boil.
Courage by Julian Stone and great play by Josh Schelling went unrewarded and it allowed Fishy to steady and they kicked the next three goals to ice the game – starting with a momentum breaking goal by Travis Manne in the square and continuing with Joe Brooks, who set Snooks on his way to a classy goal.
Frustration led to some undisciplined ‘back chat’ and the resulting 50 metre penalty brought up a goal to Tom Fusinato of Fishy and it was “game over” at three quarter time.
For Fish Creek; Rouda, Snooks, Fusinato, Travis Manne, Gareth and Cal Park and Brent Cooper up forward were among the best but the club rated the work of Lachie Pratt highly on the day for his leadership role in the backline where he marshalled the club’s young talent, including the likes of Jake Buckland, Gus Staley, Michael Danckert and Ryan McGannon with the support of Rhys Staley and others to produce an excellent defensive effort on the day.
Stony had some good contributors too on the day but they’ve had a horror run of injuries this year with the likes of Aaron Winkler, Justin Shields, Tom Stone, Michael Green and Jack Stuart among those missing and could reasonably have expected to finish 2015 on a better note.
Moments that mattered
There’s no doubt about Fish Creek’s Travis Manne being a clutch player and his opportunist goal half-way through the third term, against the run of play, single-handedly snuffed out hopes of a Stony Creek revival.
Well done Toora
The Toora Football Netball Club had their facilities, especially the football ground, in superb order for Sunday’s semi-finals, but they also took the opportunity to post a notice in the rooms calling for people to accept volunteer positions next year, proving it doesn’t all happen by magic.
Even leading by eight goals at the last change, Fish Creek coach Kevin Barnes was awake to the possibility of a Stony Creek comeback: “Don’t let them get going. We know what they can do,” he said.
Don’t risk it
Drivers taking the Lower Toora Road “back road” to Foster and Fish Creek after Sunday’s footy at Toora will have noticed a random breath-testing station set up just outside town. Police detected a number of low readings for alcohol and issued no tickets but it was a timely warning nonetheless that they’ll be out there after finals footy.
Coach’s Box Fish Creek Senior Coach, Kevin Barnes:
We put pressure on the ball and we put pressure on them and it made them cough up the ball and also have trouble hitting a target. We knew we had to do that after the last time we played them and we worked on it. But there’s still plenty of improvement. We made some silly errors and gave away some cheap frees. We’re not there yet. We also got a more even team effort this week which we were looking for.