A MASSIVE season of Men’s Premier Division action came to a head on Wednesday night, with premiership favourites, Geelong Cougars challenged every step of the way by St Therese after they finished top of the ladder once more. The Saints chewed up Geelong’s back-to-back finals hopes, however, keeping ahead of the Cougars at every turn and drawing back the margin time and time again to get their first win of the season against the Cougars in the best possible scenario. The two sides were unable to be split on multiple occasions, with the contest ultimately finishing in a draw and two action-packed halves of overtime before the Saints were named well-deserved 2019 premiers.
Geelong Cougars (53) defeated by St Therese (59)
St Therese were in the finest form of their 2019 season when they took on the Cougars, getting off to a fantastic start to lead the Cougars by four goals at the first change. Their speedy start was punctuated by accuracy and volume from goalers, Corey Nexhip (35 goals at 81 per cent accuracy) and Connor Lilly (24 at 75 per cent) who piled on the attacking pressure from the get-go thanks to phenomenal feeds from wing attack Guy Keane, who was awarded Grand Final MVP for his effort. Neither side was willing to bend, giving no leeway down the court and seeing plenty of turnovers from both teams with plenty of haste running down the midcourt. While both sides wasted opportunities and made some uncharacteristic errors across the court it was St Therese that took control to convert, with a zoning defence allowing Dylan Nexhip to pick off vital turnover ball in defence. Geelong’s attack had a slow start, too hasty to feed into the circle and giving Saints plenty of opportunity to turn over the ball. Key goaler Brayden Pastore had a slow start before warming into the match, only putting three on the board in the first before finishing with a tally of 20 while Cameron Allum provided a solid target in at goal shooter (33 goals).
Geelong came back in the second quarter, evening up the ledger early and well and truly putting Saints under the pump, reducing the accuracy of St Therese’ goalers thanks to the defensive prowess of Luke Rawlings who joined the fray to apply the aerial pressure Saints took advantage of early. The Cougars showed plenty more tenacity up the court in the second, splitting the centre court to drive to the circle and breaking away from the Saints’ zoning defence. Gerard Murphy put in the hard yards brimming with experience, calling plays and creating vital opportunities for the Cougars to get back into the game and ultimately evening up the ledger less than five minutes into the quarter. Jed Christian did a good job on speedster, Riley Richardson, forcing some errant passes here and there before the Saints tidied up their act once more, drawing level to finish the first half on 24 goals apiece.
With calls for overtime already being tossed up thanks to the closeness of the match, the third quarter saw both sides continue on their merry way creating an intense contest with plenty of players stepping up. Saints’ Matthew Longhurst was key shutting down easy access through the goal third in at goal defence alongside Dylan Nexhip, seeing the side steal back the contest once more to finish the quarter with the same quarter-time deficit for the sides heading into the final quarter. An injection of youth seemed to be exactly what the Saints needed in the third with Tristan Comans entering the fray, and while neither side could be separated for long it was a goaling showdown with accuracy to post from both teams. Geelong continued to put in the hard yards, rotating players through defence and showcasing both their versatility and individual ability to impact the contest regardless of the combinations.
With a four goal margin heading into the final term, the last quarter saw St Therese come in ahead with the pace quickening and passes flying down the court. While the Saints were impressive delaying Geelong’s movement down the court, It was a battle of goal keepers with Rawlings and Dylan Nexhip rebounding well and creating opportunities plenty while Geelong’s Alastair Punshon and Jake Dambrauskas switched on to propel the ball up the court. Inaccuracy caused issues for both sides but with the frenetic nature of the game goals were scored back quickly and efficiently, with the two sides going goal for goal to finish.
Sitting at 47 goals apiece come full time, on came the overtime with two seven-minute halves to decide the 2019 Men’s Premier Division victors. St Therese doubled Geelong in overtime, shooting 12 goals to six to finish off the match on a high with Keane and both Nexhips pulling out all the shots to ensure the Cougars did not go back-to-back. While both sides pulled off some impressive manoeuvres in the extra time it was Saints to played through it better, finding the form to finish well and come away with the elusive grand final victory, 59-53.
Grand Final MVP: Guy Keane (St Therese)
Season MVP: Brodie Roberts (Sirens Netball, 18 votes)
Runner up: Alastair Punshon (Geelong Cougars, 17 votes)
Third: Matt Doyle (Melbourne City Blackhawks, 15 votes)
Fourth: Riley Richardson (St Therese, 13 votes)
Fifth: Joshua Burns (Geelong Cougars, 12 votes)