Keilor completes perfect season

Photo by Damjan Janevski.

By Tara Murray

Keilor put the finishing touches on the perfect season, claiming the Essendon District Football League premier division on Saturday afternoon.

Clearly the best side all season, the Blues faced an Aberfeldie side that was hoping to make its own history – the Gorillas were aiming for three premierships in a row.

With plenty on the line the decider went down to the dying minutes. The Blues were able to hold off the Gorillas, 11.9 (75)-10.7 (67).

Blues coach Mick McGuane was clearly proud of the group.

“To win 20 games straight is difficult to do,” he said. “To be premiers and champions [minor premiers] in the same season, our club has never done before at senior level, 142 years of history is broken.

“It takes a special group to do that and a special club to put itself in a position to even achieve that.”

While the Blues entered the match as favourites, McGuane knew it wouldn’t be an easy game.

Keilor’s Dean Galea. Photo by Damjan Janevski.

History between the two clubs is rich, with Saturday the third time in four years that Keilor and Aberfeldie have faced off in the decider.

The Blues took advantage of the scoring end in the first quarter and led by 16 points at quarter-time. They held on to a 12 point lead at half-time.

McGuane was a happy coach after the first three quarters.

“Our boys got off to good start and we got the ascendancy at half-time and got a buffer, which we needed to at three-quarter time.

“I said to the boys that we needed to be five goals in front and we got five in front”.

McGuane said the five goal buffer gave them a few more options in the final quarter.

The Gorillas scored the opening two goals to make it game-on.

With 20 minutes gone in the final quarter, the margin was back to eight points and the Blues couldn’t take their foot off the pedal.

“We spoke about the 30 minutes and we needed to have some bravery,” McGuane said.

“We had to play and we did that and created some momentum and hit the scoreboard.

“They got it back to eight points with four minutes to go and the ball lived in our front half mostly after that.

“Stoppage after stoppage, the boys were pretty intelligent to keep the ball in close.

“We showed some maturity with a young group, how to win a game and how to save a game, both presented to us in the last quarter.”

Photo by Damjan Janevski.

PHOTO GALLERY: EDFL premier division grand final

McGuane said there were plenty of clutch moments that they would look back at as important moments in the game.

Jamie Papalia, Josh Sadler and Matthew Clark’s last quarter goals among them.

There was also some good defence efforts which proved vital.

“The Sadler tackle, the Dean Galea tackle and run down on Caleb Hislop.

“[Josh] Toy looks like he has got forward and [Brad] Xavier reads the cues and cuts it off.

“Just shows me players off the ball are still involved and impacting it defensively,” McGuane said.

Skipper Kane Barbuto was named best on ground, dominating in the midfield and kicking three goals.

Co-coach Dean Galea kicked four goals, having been held goaless in the semi-final.

Other standouts for the Blues, according to McGuane, included Riley Ham, David Gourdis, Billy Iles, Mitchell Rogerson and Jamie Papalia.

McGuane said they had a number of good performers, with several playing through duress.

The win is even more remarkable for the Blues who were missing nearly a third of their best side. With many big names missing big chunks of the season, it has given players opportunities to step up.

“Joseph Ciranna, Stefan Radovanovic, Riley Ham, Campbell Barton, Sadler … A lot are young players in game experience and on the birth certificate.

“They are young with the world at their feet to have successful careers. “It bodes well with the youth and experience to blend together.

“They are lessons learned and if they are prepared to bank those lessons and build on their game from that… It’s all we can ask for.”

It’s McGuane’s third premiership as coach of Keilor. Seven players are now dual premiership players having also played in 2016. Thirteen of the team were part of last year’s grand final side.

McGuane was quick to praise the Gorillas and the work they’ve done in recent years.

The grand final was the Gorillas seventh in a row, having won three premierships.