Best Battles | Lakers hold off spirited Thunder in knockout final

By Meg Saultry

Seymour v Shepparton

Elimination Final, 2016, at Kyabram Recreation Reserve

Seymour 7.12 (54) lt Shepparton 8.12 (60)

In what was a drought-breaking first finals appearance in 11 years, Shepparton wasn’t content with the one feat.

The Bears made sure their presence in the finals series counted when they faced Seymour in the elimination final, securing their first finals win in 16 years with a six-point victory in front of frenzied fans.

Inaccuracy hurt both teams throughout the match, but it was Seymour that had control of the match for most of day, leading at every change of end.

But the young Bears proved they had the stronger legs, kicking four of the final six goals - including Rowan Hiscock’s match-winner in the 15th minute - to sail through to the second week of finals.

“The footy was there to be won in that last five or 10-minute period and that’s the sort of stuff that makes footballers,” Shepparton coach Brad Campbell said.

“They’re hard games like that where they can go either way because if you win it’s a great feeling, but when you’re on the other side it feels like it’s the end of the world.”

Shepparton’s Mitch Brett and Nik Rokahr were their side’s best, although Lions ruck Brandyn Grenfell got the better of opponent Ash Holland.

Nagambie v Dookie United

Semi-final, 2018, at Stanhope Recreation Reserve

Dookie United 8.6 (54) lt Nagambie 11.13 (79)

Despite coming into its semi-final against Nagambie as a clear underdog, Dookie’s third-quarter showcase gave this game some much-needed tension.

Nagambie was well in control of the match throughout the first half, producing a 19-point lead by half-time.

But in a bid to spur his team to greater heights, Dookie coach Steve Reeves kept his side on the ground for a half-time rev-up, which ultimately worked wonders.

Stepping up to the task, the Thunder outscored the Lakers in the third quarter to get within three points of their opponents ahead of the final term.

Despite the Thunder’s comeback, Nagambie’s experience eventually held out in the end and the Lakers ran away with a 25-point victory.

Key Nagambie forwards Mat Waterson and Michael Roberts linked up for seven goals between them, while Mick Shiels and Anthony Haysom stood up when it counted.

Dookie’s Bradley Ridings was influential, while teammates Brendan McMullan and Luke Jackson finished the match as multiple goal-scorers.

Avenel v Merrigum

Round one, 2018, at Avenel Recreation Reserve

Avenel 8.10 (58) lt Merrigum 8.16 (64)

Only minor scores separated Merrigum and Avenel in the 2018 season opener.

The home side was left ruing a lost chance to put Merrigum to the sword after keeping its opponent goalless across the first half.

But the Bulldogs dug deep in the third, outscoring Avenel by 24 points to get within nine points of the lead by three-quarter time.

A high-scoring final stanza bolstered both teams’ scores, but it was Merrigum’s ample opportunity in front of goal that edged it in front by the final siren.

Bulldog Geoff Connally got his season off to a flying start, named best-on, while Josh Smith nabbed two goals and Sean Reidy kicked a goal on debut.