Reigning premier Heyfield advanced to a second grand final in as many seasons after rallying from behind in a classic tussle against Rosedale at the weekend, 13.14 (92) to 9.18 (72).
Trailing at the final change of ends, the signs looked ominous in the early stages of the fourth term for the Blues.
Heyfield was first to go up field and score through Mitch Dowse and regained the lead, however it was Jesse Bedggood who put his hand up as the key forward of the final term with three of his game high six majors coming in the closing 20 minutes of play.
The Blues had a number of opportunities to snatch the lead back, however the side’s key playmakers’ inaccuracy in front of goal was costly all afternoon; Rosedale kicked 12 behinds in the second half of the contest alone.
In contrast, the Kangaroos’ creative crew stepped up on the big stage.
Coach Adrian Cox made his presence felt in the final 20 minutes of the match, Shaun Humphreys was dominant in the ruck contests all afternoon, Josh Neille created play on the ball, and the backline, led by Mark Johnston, withstood the Blues’ forward pressure to ensure passage to North Gippsland football’s grandest stage.
Yet to drop the points in two previous meetings this season, Rosedale would still have been wary of Heyfield but did not look phased early in the contest.
Running hot the past two weeks to book a berth in the preliminary final, the Blues caught Heyfield napping; the Kangaroos were again slow to get going as the Blues drilled forward from the opening bounce.
A 50 metre penalty put Rosedale’s Gerard Barnes within scoring distance and he opened his side’s account.
It was quickly followed by a second through Scott Johnstone who ran from half-back to drill a major.
The scoring dried up as play concentrated between the two half-back lines, as attention turned to the matchup between both sides’ best players.
Joint league best and fairest winner Rohan Diamond was closely tagged by Heyfield young gun Jack Woodland, Roos’ captain Dave Kelly gave little breathing space to Blues danger man Brad Scott, Rosedale full forward Andrew Flanagan was kept in check by Jesse Leeds and the contest between Neille and Adam Diamond was an enticing one from the outset.
After being forced on to the back foot early, Kodie Woodland registered Heyfield’s opening major some 10 minutes into the term.
It was followed by Szabo’s first following a courageous mark by Woodland and the margin was reduced to eight points.
Precision delivery in to Bedggood by Neille ultimately became a missed opportunity, however a shot at goal after the siren by Humphreys drew the margin back to two points at the first change.
The heat did not extinguish after the fiery first term and continued to intensify in a passionate battle, which saw the sides exchange blow for blow on the scoreboard in a low scoring, but physical, second term.
Szabo missed the first shot of the quarter, while at the other end of the ground there was no such issue for Flanagan who added his second to a match tally of three.
The Kangaroos’ defence was besieged, kicking out to a three-on-one contest, and the Blues rebounded through captain Chris King.
His hard tackling resulted in the Blues’ second in as many minutes as they extended the margin out to two majors.
Bedggood made it two majors in a row to bring the difference back to a point late in the term, before his third shot on goal for the quarter went through as a behind ahead of the half-time siren to leave Heyfield with the narrowest of leads, one point.
Starting the premiership term on the front foot Jack Woodland opened Heyfield’s account in front of a record $12,648 gate.
Brother Kodie followed on from his younger sibling’s major, adding his second when he swooped on the loose ball to goal.
Under pressure, Rosedale settled to register a major about 14 minutes into the stanza, and it was followed by Caldwell’s first as the Blues snatched back the lead.
Three missed opportunities in the closing stages of the term let Heyfield off the hook as the Blues forwards struggled to find the posts.
Soccering the ball off the ground through the goals, Mitch Doswe got Heyfield off to a flying start in the fourth.
It was followed by one of three majors to Bedggood in the final term as the Kangaroos defence of Leeds and Kelly held staunch.
Flanagan registered his third to reel the margin back to eight points at the 19 minute mark, however it would be answered by majors to Josh Stubbe and Bedggood as Heyfield went on to record a 20 point victory.
SECOND placed Traralgon Tyers United recorded a comfortable 37 point victory over Cowwarr to advance to the grand final to meet minor premiers and their semi-final opponent Heyfield.
COWWARR sealed the club’s first grand final appearance in the under 18 competition with victory over Sale City, 13.11 (89) to 11.13 (79). The Saints exploded out of the blocks to lead by 37 points at half-time, however had to compete with a dogged City line-up in the second half to hold on to the win.
The Saints will meet Churchill in the big one.