Rebound Sunshine Kangaroos show true grit

Josh Linton takes a strong mark on the lead for Sunshine Kangaroos. (Damjan Janevski)

Sunshine has moved through to the Western Region Football League division 1 grand final after a runaway 43-point win over Hoppers Crossing in a one-sided preliminary final at Burbank Oval.

The Kangaroos had to respond on Saturday after failing to fire a shot in a semi-final loss to Deer Park seven days earlier.

They were clearly keen to make amends and gained some much-needed momentum en route to the biggest stage.

Kangaroos coach Brendan Hallinan said the players and the club had not dwelt on the semi-final defeat.

“We had a team meeting after that game [against Deer Park] and we moved on pretty quick,” he said. “You’ve got to brush those ones off. It’s finals football and you’ve got no time to look in the rear view mirror.

“We were able to put a plan together and it worked out well today.”

Sunshine has a simple motto that Hallinan has conveyed to his team throughout his three-year tenure – grit and effort.

The Kangas were back to their best in those two departments as they out-worked and out-enthused a tired-looking Hoppers side.

“Every time you go out and represent, we want to make sure we’re playing with that grit and effort,” Hallinan said.

“We did that right up until the final siren and we’ll continue to do that next week when we play Deer Park in the grand final.”

Sunshine turned up the heat after quarter-time. The Kangaroos piled on 13 goals to seven and appeared in control for the most part.

Hallinan challenged his midfielders to lift after a quiet game the previous week, and the likes of Ben Christodoulou, Nathan Lyons and Lachie Langwell answered the call.

“During the week, I did challenge the midfield to step up because they got their pants pulled down against Deer Park,” Hallinan said.

“As soon as we get it inside forward 50, we’re pretty dangerous and lively.”

Christodoulou is enjoying a strong back end of the year. He was best-on-ground for his run and carry and impact in big plays.

“He understands that in order for us to play well as a team, he has to go above and beyond in his role,” Hallinan said. “He took it upon himself and came out with the energy and desire to get us across the line.”

Liam Cavanagh did his reputation as one of the premier defenders in the competition no harm with an outstanding intercept marking performance.

Jake Allen was Sunshine’s most dangerous forward with three goals, but the Roos had five multiple goalkickers, so they certainly shared the work load. One of those was Lachlan Smart, who kicked two.

There will be a sea of blue and gold when Sunshine takes on Deer Park in the grand final at Whitten Oval on Saturday.

Deer Park is gunning for a record-extending fifth consecutive premiership. The Lions are red hot favourites, but Hallinan insists his side is not there to make up the numbers.

“When you get to a grand final, everything is on the line,” he said. “We’re in it to win it and we’re looking forward to the challenge of playing them.

“I want the boys to embrace it, I want the club to embrace it, I want everyone at Sunshine to feel really connected to the week … because everyone has put in a lot of work, from the supporters to the committee to the coaches and the players.”