STRATHFIELDSAYE forwards Sam Mildren and Stephen Milne booted 12 goals between them as the Storm surged home to down Sandhurst in Saturday’s Bendigo Football League grand final.
In just their sixth year of existence and only their 114th senior game since the start-up season in 2009, the Storm booted 12 goals to four after half-time to claim the Bendigo Advertiser Cup: 20.18 (138) to 12.11 (83).
Mildren and Milne both contributed six goals. Milne’s fifth major – booted at the two-minute mark of the last term – was his 100th for the season.
Huge sections of the estimated 10,000 bumper crowd surged over the Queen Elizabeth Oval fences to acclaim Milne’s feat.
Security staff were just as quickly on the field to encircle the umpires in mid-field.
Apart from Milne’s effort, the major talking point was the story surrounding Sandhurst ruckman Tim Martin. On crutches with a dislocated ankle encased in a moon boot, Martin could barely walk on the Sunday before the grand final.
That was the day he received his second consecutive Michelsen Medal as the BFL’s fairest and best with a record vote haul of 34.
But play he did although barely able to elevate off the turf against Strathfieldsaye’s ruckmen, Michael Pilcher and Kris Lea.
The Dragons were super competitive in the first half. They led by 10 points at quarter-time over an inaccurate Storm with Billy Evans and Lachlan Ross kicking late goals.
Storm had scooted out to a 26-point lead midway through the second term before Sandhurst battled back.
A couple of off-the-ball incidents seemed to spark the Dragons. Their skipper Blair Holmes was involved in a heated clash with former St Kilda hard nut Steven Baker and mercurial forward, Lachlan Sharp.
The Storm’s Sharp hit the deck but no umpire reports were lodged. Video footage has still to be looked at by BFL officials.
Exciting small forward Mitch Dole (2) and Jake McLean booted Sandhurst goals as the Dragons closed the gap to just five points by the long break.
Mildren had three goals beside his name and Milne two by half-time. Milne hadn’t landed his first goal until the 10-minute mark of the second quarter.
Sandhurst’s tough four-week finals campaign seemed to take the sting out of the Dragon legs in the second half. Strathfieldsaye booted five goals to two in the third term and another seven majors in the final stanza.
Although when Hurst speedster Alex Wharton drilled a timely goal at the 19-minute mark of the third term, the Storm lead was just 14 points: 77-63.
Time-on majors to Mildren and Milne extended the Strathfieldsaye lead to 21 points by three-quarter time.
And then it was all Storm in the final quarter. Seven goals to two – including three in ‘junk time’ – extended Strathfieldsaye’s eventual winning margin to 55 points.
Winning coach Darryl Wilson said the euphoria in the Strathfieldsaye rooms had to be seen to be believed.
“Still, the first thing that struck me about this club is that they wanted to win. There’s no good playing if you don’t want to strive to succeed.
“There were some disappointments today. There were a group of players (Jake Dickens, Nathan Moffat) who just missed out, so we had to win it for them.
“At half-time I asked the boys to show us what character they had. There were a couple of off-the-ball things which went both ways but seemed to swing the game back in Sandhurst’s favour.
“My message was: play footy. Settle and control the game, dictate the pace of the game. To their credit, the boys did exactly that after half-time.”
The Storm reached the preliminary final in 2012, the grand final last year when beaten by five-time premiers Golden Square, but made sure that their sixth season as a BFL club would be a memorable one.
Sandhurst coach Brett Fitzpatrick said his players had shown in the past two weeks (preliminary and grand finals) they were not intimidated and wanted to be in the contest.
“Finals footy is a lot more physical than home-and-away footy and we’ve shown we really wanted to compete. In the grand final we just kept at it and kept at it. Strath Storm is a very good side and their experience showed out in this match.”
Strathfieldsaye 2.4 8.10 13.12 20.18 (138)
Sandhurst 4.2 8.5 10.9 12.11 (83)
Goals – Sam Mildren 6, Stephen Milne 6, Lachlan Sharp 3, Kris Lea 2, Vinnie Flood, Tom Bartholomew, Matt Smith. Sandhurst: Mitchell Dole 4, Lachlan Ross 2, Lee Coghlan, Alex Wharton, Jake McLean, Ben Anderson, Billy Evans, Brodie Montague.
Best — Strathfieldsaye: Sam Mildren, Shaun Everington, Stephen Milne, Leigh Prior, Matthew Johnston, Steven Baker, Jake Hall. Sandhurst: Lachlan Ross, Tommy Cole, Mitchell Dole, Matt Thornton, Lee Coghlan, Blair Holmes.
Nalder Medal: Shaun Everington (Storm).
AFL Victoria Country medal: Sam Mildren (Storm).