The Storm eventually won the vital top five clash at Beck Legal Oval by 32 points, thanks to an 11-goal contribution from pivotal forwards Stephen Milne and Sam Mildren. Nonetheless, the Roos were acutely aware that their finals action hopes could hinge on the outcome of the Round 16 clash and they booted eight of the 12 first half-half majors.
After lacking real tenacity in the first two quarters Strathfieldsaye, eventually lifted their intensity on the way to a 18.14 (122) to 13.12 (90) victory. Ross Turner was Milne’s opponent at the first bounce and he stuck doggedly to his task for the entire contest. Milne had just the one goal of his day’s half-dozen to his name by the long break as Turner shut him down. Turner even capitalised on an overlap in Flat’s front half to kick one of the home team’s first quarter goals, so he and Milne were even by half-time.
Trailing by four points at quarter-time, the Roos booted four goals to none in the second term. Key defender Dylan Clohesy hauled in four marks inside, or close to, the 50m arc as time after time Kangaroo Flat repelled Storm’s forward moves. Co-captain Luke Lougoon (2), Matt Giri and young midfielder Jasper Ibbeson-Coatsworth nailed Flat goals allowing the home side to skip out to a 20-point half-time advantage. But it was a far different Strathfieldsaye side in the third term. Skipper Shannon Geary – clearly his side’s best in the first half –- and inside midfielder Matt Johnston (who booted two goals for the day) provided the third quarter drive for the Storm. It was end-to-end football for the opening 16 minutes of the third stanza.
Majors to Milne, Jayden Donaldson and Mildren reduced Storm’s deficit to two points. Even when Mildren marked a high up-and-under floater and kicked truly to give the Storm a three-point buffer – 8.10 to 8.7 – Tim Brooks quickly regained the lead for the Roos with a long set shot from the old caravan park flank. Corey Greer and Billy White were the midfielders who got the Roos going. Again, the Storm needed Johnston and Shannon Geary to kick-start their forward moves. They burrowed into packs, fed out handballs and linked up with outside running teammates.
A low, flat shot from Milne, tucked in on the George Edwards Stand pocket, started a run of four Storm goals which included an accurate set shot from Lachie Sharp. Deep in time-on, Flat’s Cohen Kekich was tackled incorrectly after he’d jumped high for a loose ball at half-forward. His shot left the Roos three goals in arrears at the last break. The Storm outscored the Roos five goals to two in the final quarter. It didn’t all go Strathfieldsaye’s way, though. Matt Giri ran into an open Station Street end goal mid-term to boot his third major and cut the margin to 11 points. But when Milne and Mildren added a pair of majors each and then Milne marked inside 50, faked off a step as if to play on and handballed to Sean Johns, Strathfieldsaye was home. Johns goaled at the scoreboard end to sink Kangaroo Flat’s hopes.
Storm coach Darryl Wilson said his players were second to the ball, giving away a lot of free kicks, in a disappointing first half. “They made us pay with their slingshot footy. We had to re-adjust and play a little bit differently after half-time. “I thought Jake Hall’s third quarter effort got us going, along with Matt Johnston, and Michael Pilcher got a lot more of the ball. Flat’s Nick Lang had been a real handful in the ruck, but Pilcher was good in the third.”
Wilson said Storm defender Ben Lester had suffered a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury. Shaun Everington (calf) was a late withdrawal from Saturday’s side. And key forward Tom Bartholomew’s chances of running out in the Storm guernsey this season are receding into the distance. Just two home-and-away rounds are left in the 2014 Bendigo Football League season and he hasn’t played since very early in the year.
Strathfieldsaye 4.5 4.9 13.13 18.14 (122)
Kangaroo Flat 4.1 8.5 11.7 13.12 ( 90)
Goals – Strathfieldsaye: Stephen Milne 6, Sam Mildren 5, Matt Johnston 2 Lachlan Sharp 2, Sean Johns, Lachlan Bonney, Jayden Donaldson. Kangaroo Flat: Matt Giri 3, Luke Lougoon 2, Cohen Kekich 2, Cameron Rinaldi, Corey Greer, Simon Davies, Tim Brooks, Ross Turner, Jasper Ibbeson-Coatsworth.
Best – Strathfieldsaye: Shannon Geary (best on ground), Matt Johnston, Michael Pilcher, Stephen Milne, Jake Hall, Lachlan Bonney, Sam Mildren. Kangaroo Flat: Corey Greer, Dylan Clohesy, Billy White, Jack Bowyer, Linc Frost, Jarryd Wiegard, Nick Lang.