STRATHFIELDSAYE slaughtered South Bendigo by 128 points, improved its percentage by 10.36 and snared top spot on the Bendigo Football Netball League ladder by late Saturday afternoon.
With Stephen Milne bagging six goals to improve his season tally to 89, the Storm sent its home Flight Centre Park supporters into raptures long before the final siren.
With scores from the QEO available instantly via modern technology, Strathfieldsaye followers knew Eaglehawk had beaten Sandhurst and the Storm had cemented top spot on the table by a clear four premiership points.
The Bloods suffered another big loss and were unable to land a goal until the 20-minute mark of the final quarter.
They were shut down by Strathfieldsaye’s relentless contested ball pressure, yet South’s own wayward field kicking and inability to hit targets played into the Storm’s hands.
Early on it didn’t look like a huge margin was in the offing. The Storm booted three goals at the Sheepwash Creek end with running back Matt Smith and midfielder Shaun Everington drilling majors.
South wasted first use of the breeze at the Tannery Lane end, booting five behinds. With their turn with the breeze, Strathfieldsaye added 7.4 with Milne kicking one major from a set shot, soccering home his second and ducking and diving around opponents in the goal square to bag his third.
He had a succession of opponents during the match. Jayke Barrack, Adrian Coad and Ryley Barrack all picked up the elusive Storm forward at various stages.
Daniel Geary drilled one of the set shots of the day in the second term. He marked an errant South defensive kick-off and then calmly slotted Storm’s sixth goal of the second stanza from the 50m arc on the pavilion wing.
The Bloods were swamped again in the third quarter. Kellan Smith, Steven Baker and Matt Smith continually hammered the ball forward.
Kris Lea steered home three goals at the supposedly non-scoring end, midfielder Matt Johnston added two more (the second major from a low, bouncing shot) while South could manage just a solitary behind.
The only interest as the final term got under way remained in when and if South could score a goal and how big the Storm’s final margin would be.
Jarrod Postle answered the first query when he finally landed a South major at the 20-minute mark. Moments later Kieran Strachan booted the Bloods’ second – South’s only goals for the day.
Josh Whelan had an opportunity to make it three, but his shot from the coaching box flank hit the post.
Storm ruckman Michael Pilcher drilled the home club’s 23rd goal just after the final siren had sounded to hand Strathfieldsaye a massive last home-and-away round victory.
Storm coach Darryl Wilson said linkman Nick Smith, stretchered off early in the last term, had done an ACL tendon in his knee and would miss the rest of the season.
With midfielder Jake Hall already out with a leg injury, key position players Sam Mildren (hip) and Leigh Prior (sore hip) were rested to give them plenty of time to prepare for the finals.
Key on-ballers Vinnie Flood and Shaun Everington got through the game unscathed, Wilson said.
“We’ll just train normally leading up to our next game. We’ll train on the Saturday and also do a fair bit of recovery with the physios to make sure the players are right for the following week,” the coach said.
Looking at other BFNL final scores, Wilson added Eaglehawk clearly had a lot to play for in the concluding round. “They knew they had to win and it was interesting to see the margin they eventually came home with.”
The knockout elimination final between Golden Square and Eaglehawk will be played under lights at the QEO on Saturday evening, starting at 6 pm.
Sunday afternoon is qualifying final day for the Sandhurst and Gisborne clash. The Storm has the first weekend of the finals off.
Strathfieldsaye 3.3 1.7 19.8 23.13 (151)
South Bendigo 0.5 0.6 0.7 2.11 (23)
Goals – Strathfieldsaye: Stephen Milne 6, Kris Lea 3, Michael Pilcher 3, Lachlan Sharp 2, Matthew Johnston 2, Matt Smith 2, Daniel Geary, Sean Johns, Shaun Everington, Steven Baker, Jayden Donaldson. South Bendigo: Jarrod Postle, Kieran Strachan.
Best – Strathfieldsaye: Kellan Smith, Steven Baker, Matt Smith, Stephen Milne, Shaun Everington, Matthew Johnston, Michael Pilcher. South Bendigo: Aaron Connaughton, Joel Swatton, Ryley Barrack, Adrian Coad.