GIPPSLAND Power has booked a berth in the TAC Cup grand final after a tough win against Sandringham Dragons on Saturday.
At the first bounce Power were reminded of the impact Tom Fusinato can have on a contest.
In his first game for several months after suffering a serious neck injury, Fusinato was straight into the middle, gaining the crucial first clearance.
His kick found Tim Membrey, who converted the first goal of the match.
It was the perfect start for the Power, but it didn’t take the Sandringham Dragons long to reply.
Daniel Jackson was also putting his stamp on the game early, his run and chasing efforts were outstanding, with a big tackle that resulted in another Membrey goal.
Another quick reply from the Dragons made it clear this was going to be a free-flowing and high-scoring match.
With both teams full of courage, skill and determination, the level of football on display was exceptional.
Josh Scott was all bravery as he ran back with the flight of the ball to take a strong grab and his subsequent goal put the Power back in front.
With Ben Kearns, Matt Northe and Tim Membrey each slotting goals through, the Power went into the first break with a one-goal lead.
A cautiously optimistic Stevens praised his team at quarter time.
The tone was set for the match, a goal-for-goal arm wrestle where no team was able to break away with a big lead.
In the second quarter both teams upped the ante defensively and it seemed that free kicks in front of goal were creating more scoring opportunities than open play.
A patch of Anthony Tipungwuti magic just before half-time saw Power go into the main break with an 11-point lead.
Errors in decision-making and man-marking began to creep into the game for Gippsland at the start of the second half.
Nick Graham’s first goal for the game kept the Power in front but the Dragons weren’t going away.
The Power were fortunate that inaccurate kicking meant the Dragons were not hurting them on the scoreboard.
Both teams were working incredibly hard but the reward for effort was not there, with the Dragons kicking 4.4 to Gippsland’s 3.3 for the quarter.
When needed, captain Tim Membrey stood up, slotting through a tough shot from the forward pocket with ease.
Membrey’s fifth goal gave Power the lead going in to the last quarter.
Membrey continued to be unstoppable on the lead and started the final quarter with another grab and a huge goal from outside the 50-metre arc.
Minutes later he had done it again, putting through his seventh goal but the Dragons replied with a quick score, and after a free kick in front of goal were suddenly in front by four points.
Brilliant work from the midfielders enabled Liam Nash to bomb in it to Membrey.
His subsequent eighth goal never looked like missing and put the Power up by four points.
When another free kick was given to the Dragons in front of goal it seemed like the game was destined for a heart-breaking finish.
But Morrish medallist Nick Graham stepped up and under immense pressure, calmly converted a set shot with just minutes remaining on the clock.
As the siren sounded, the crowd erupted; Power had won an epic match by just four points 16.10 (106) to 15.12 (102).
The Power will take on the Oakleigh Chargers in the grand final after they easily won the other preliminary final by 12 goals.
The game will be played at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne before the Victorian Football League grand final.