By Kath Gannaway
Healesville, Woori Yallock, Mount Evelyn and Gembrook-Cockatoo junior football clubs shared the excitement and rewards of the 2017 AFL Yarra Ranges Junior Grand Finals on Sunday.
Woori Yallock came away with the first Premiership Cup of the day in the Under 11s in a low-scoring, goal for goal four quarters that saw the Tigers win by one point 2.1(13) to Healesville Red’s young Bloods on 2.0(12).
Baylin Spencer played a brilliant game for Woori, and likewise Zane Anderson-Hunter, who were umpires’ choice for Best on the Ground.
Woori coach Dallas Spencer congratulated both teams on their persistence in what was a hard-fought game and had a special pat on the back for his boys who he said had dug deep when it mattered.
The Tigers and Bloods ran out onto the Yarra Glen oval next to battle it out for the Under 12 flag.
Healesville made the running from the first bounce and despite the efforts of a determined Woori came away with a convincing 36-point win 7.3(45) to 1.3(9).
Healesville coach John Baxter said they knew from the start of the season that Woori would be their biggest rivals and it proved the case.
To his team, “The Invincibles” he said their training and work ethic had paid off. “The way you can work at training and way you compete on Sundays gives all the people here so much joy to watch,” he said.
Best on Ground for Healesville was Cameron Nyko and for Woori Yallock Matty Milkins.
The Under 14s between Healesville and Mount Evelyn was always going to be a close one, but no-one could have guessed the final outcome – the first draw in memory of an Under 14 grand final.
In another low-scoring game the Bloods and Rovers held each other to account at every turn and had the crowd on tenterhooks as the score hung on 26 points each with just minutes to the final siren.
Some great work by both backlines held off what could have been the winning shot at the sticks, and the scoreboard told the story Healesville 3.8(26) – Mount Evelyn 4.2(26).
Another five minutes each end saw desperation football with both sides throwing everything they could at breaking the deadlock, including some hard-ball tackling and long kicks, to face another siren on 26-all.
The league officials, and coaches declared a worthy result for two teams that had won in equal measure.
“You never game up,” Healesville coach Marcus Howie told his team and Mount Evelyn coach Mark Holly had the same message.
“Two teams have butted heads for an extra 10 minutes and you could not wish for a better result,” he said.
“You have both won a grand final; both teams deserved that win,” he said.
Best on Ground for Mount Evelyn was Daniel Coutts and for Healesville Daniel Ebbels.
The Under 16s saw the hills sides represented with Monbulk Hawks taking on Gembrook-Cockatoo in a game that gave spectators some courageous football.
Monbulk were the team to beat on paper, but it was Gembrook-Cockatoo who lifted on the day and ultimately out-run Monbulk to register the win 10.12(72) to 6.8(44).
Gembrook-Cockatoo coach Brad Snoxell paid credit to Monbulk saying they had played a stellar year to stay in top spot.
“The ball bounced our way a bit today,” he said, but gave his boys their dues also saying they had fulfilled the vision they had at the beginning of the year to be holding the 2017 premiership cut aloft on grand final day.
“You have worked extremely hard to be standing here,” he said.
Frankie Trott was Best On Ground for Gembrook-Cockatoo and Austin Richardson for Monbulk.
Chair of AFL Yarra Ranges congratulated all the teams who ran out on the biggest day of the year for the junior competition saying it had been a great day for junior football.
“It’s the first ever draw in a grand final for the Under 14s and the result after two ends of extra time was a good one,” he said.
“It’s pleasing that the teams’ sportsmanship and the feeling between the clubs is obviously really strong.
“They respect each other … win or lose that respect is there.”