Storm’s third grand final success in five years by Richard Jones

Bendigo Football League…

StrathstormSTRATHFIELDSAYE unleashed a nine-goal last quarter salvo to sink pre-match favourites Eaglehawk and take out the 2017 BFL grand final.

With just four goals on the board at the last change and trailing by 20 points the Storm’s mercurial forward Lachlan Sharp came to the rescue.

He booted five of his six big dance majors in the vital last stanza as Strathfieldsaye took full advantage of the blustery wind favouring the city end.

With the mercury peaking at 30 degrees and the ever-present strong breeze wreaking havoc with even short kicks the consensus among spectators at three-quarter time was that the Hawks would have the fresher legs.

But it wasn’t to be.

Strathfieldsaye turned in arguably their most memorable quarter of football in their brief nine-year history as they locked the ball inside their forward 50 at the city end.

Eaglehawk’s Lachie Atherton had battled hard to restrict Sharp to just a single major by the last change.

But with eventual Nalder Medallist Kallen Geary, Trent Donnan and co-skipper Shannon Geary totally in control of the midfield the ball was constantly in Strathfieldsaye’s forward line.

After managing just four goals in three, full quarters of footy suddenly the Storm had added four in 11 minutes in the last term.

There was no slowing down. Sharp added three more goals to his early last term pair to give him a match haul of six and a season tally of 142.

That total places Sharp eighth on the all-time BFL list.

But the Hawks’ efforts should not be pushed aside. They led 4.9 to 4.8 halfway through the third term with the wind playing havoc with the foot skills of both sides.

Eaglehawk made its move with 20 minutes on the clock of the third term. Spearhead Matt Gretgrix (2) and Joel Mullen added three quick majors for the Hawks.

Gretgrix’s second goal during the Eaglehawk purple patch was a 30 metre snap. It was to be the G-Train’s fourth goal of the match, but also the Hawks’ last for the afternoon.

Brodie Filo had a chance after the three-quarter time siren to add another major for the Hawks but his shot from deep in the scoreboard pocket missed. 

Strathfieldsaye  2.2      4.6      4.9        13.10 (88)

Eaglehawk         2.3      4.7      7.11        7.14 (56)

Goals – Storm: Lachlan Sharp 6, Brad Stringer 3, Matt Harvey, Kallen Geary, Jack Neylon, Josh Formosa .  Eaglehawk: Matt Gretgrix 4, Joel Mullen, Gedd Hommelhoff, Riley Saunders.

Best – Storm: Kallen Geary (best afield), Lachlan Sharp, Josh Formosa, Jameson Sheahan, Fergus Payne, Sam Heavyside. Eaglehawk: Josh Bowe, Scott Hann, Lachie Atherton, Jesse Collins, Tyler Miles, Matt Gretgrix.

Nalder Medal: Kallen Geary (Storm).

AFL Victoria Medal: Lachlan Sharp (Storm).

Gate takings: $71,500. 

EARLIER in grand final week Strathfieldsaye’s Lachlan Sharp and Sandhurst’s Heather Oliver won the BFL’s two most important individual awards.

Not only was Sharp the first Storm player to win the Michelsen Medal he was just the third BFL player to win the coveted fairest and best award and the league goalkicking in the same year.

He joins Eaglehawk’s Greg Kennedy (1971) and Rochester’s Ray Willett (1962) to complete the double.

Oliver won her second Betty Thompson Medal after outlasting Gisborne’s Madeline Stewart by one vote.

She’d also won in 2015 but in this year’s count she edged out Stewart by one: 33 to 32.

Sharp’s win ended the drought for key forwards in the BFL’s fairest and best award. Champion Golden Square, Sandhurst and Northern United spearhead Ron Best never won a Michelsen.

Nor did Square’s Grant Weeks even though he set a new league goalkicking benchmark in 2012 or Castlemaine’s prolific full-forward Steven Oliver.

But at least the BFL’s goalkicking award is known as the Ron Best medal.

Sharp polled votes in nine of the 18 home and away rounds with a trifecta of best-on-grounds in rounds three, four and five when he nailed 31 goals: 10 against Eaglehawk, seven versus Gisborne and 14 against Maryborough.

He snatched a pair of twos and three ones between rounds 13 and 17 to take his eventual tally to 18, four ahead of Square captain Jack Geary who finished on 14.

Geary did miss five games with a fracture below his right eye while Sharp had to face the Tribunal mid-year on a careless striking charge. He was eventually cleared.

A group of players tied for third place, all on 12 votes: Ben McPhee (Eaglehawk), Rhys Magin (Kyneton), Andrew Collins (Sandhurst), Tom Toma (GS) and Kieran Strachan (South Bendigo).

To take out the Ron Best Medal Sharp had booted 124 goals in the home and away rounds. After four weeks of the finals series his total ended up on a massive 142.

So to round off the season Sharp has four medals: the premiership gong, the AFL Victoria award plus the Michelsen and Ron Best goalkicking medals.

OLIVER who is joint Sandhurst A grade netball coach won a thrilling count over Gisborne’s Madeline Stewart.

Stewart finished runner-up for the second successive season, 32 votes to Oliver’s 33.

Gun Golden Square goal shooter and Oliver’s Bendigo Spirit basketball teammate Gabe Richards finished third on 23, two clear of Maryborough’s Jordan MacIlwain and Hurst young gun Meg Williams (both on 21).

Oliver polled votes in 12 matches, winning best-on-court in nine of them including three times in the 2017 season’s first four games.

In an amazing twist Oliver polled the three and Stewart the two-vote when the two clubs clashed at Gisborne. The match ended in a draw.

The pair are VNL teammates with the Melbourne University Lightning side.

The Thompson medal was Oliver’s second major individual award this season as she’d won the Lightning’s best and fairest gong last month.

Oliver’s Sandhurst side won the A grade netball grand final with a 48-40 victory over long-term rivals Golden Square.

And last season’s footy premiers Sandhurst has a new coach.

Half-forward Andrew Collins who has 36 AFL games to his name (25 with Richmond, 11 with Carlton) was appointed on the eve of the grand final.

Collins hopes to emulate his father, David, who took the Dragons to the 2004 flag.

Wayne Primmer, 58, stood down earlier in grand final week after taking the Dragons to the 2016 premiership and fourth place this season.

He’d played 40 games for Essendon and one season for SANFL club West Torrens before embarking on an extensive playing-coach career in regional Victoria.

Andrew Collins coached Bridgewater to two premierships in the Loddon Valley league (2014-2015) during their streak of six flags and is one of the Dragons’ prime midfielder-forwards.

He enjoyed a 35-1 win-loss record with the Loddon Valley’s Mean Machine.

Collins is one of two new BFNL coaches appointed so far. The other is Gisborne’s Clinton Young, a former premiership player with Hawthorn.

Playing coach Young replaced Brad Spear who stood down after the BFNL home-and-away season ended and the finals were in full swing.

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