The MPNFL Sharks celebrate a gutsy and determined 41-point victory over Ovens and Murray at Rosebud. Photos: Gary Bradshaw – GameFace.
By David Nagel
The Mornington Peninsula Nepean Football League (MPNFL) has booked a ticket to the biggest stage in country football with a resounding 41-point victory over Ovens and Murray in the WorkSafe AFL Victoria Community Championships at Rosebud.
The Sharks were outplayed early, but settled in the second quarter, before producing a brilliant display after half time. They kicked 12 goals to three after the main break to rise to the number-two ranking in the state.
The Sharks will now take on Northern, who defeated Geelong today, for the number-one ranking in community football next year.
Coach Chris Holcombe was delighted with the effort of his team, who looked stunned after the visitor’s bright start.
“They (O&M) were fantastic early, but I thought we wrestled back control in the second quarter and then capitalised on that momentum by putting the score on the board after half time,” Holcombe said.
“Everything ended up okay, but the pressure is on early in games like this and not everything goes to plan. Once things settled, I thought we showed the way we wanted to play and got things back on our terms. I couldn’t have asked for any more from the players today.”
Holcombe was surprised with his team’s slow start, considering the atmosphere and build up prior to the game.
“That was as close to a finals atmosphere, before the game, that I’ve been involved with for quite some time,” he said.
“I love the concept, and I know the older blokes who committed this year, like Byron Barry and Shane McDonald love it as well, and the young kids feed off it and it creates this really good environment.
“I thought all the players brought in and it was sensational to be a part of it.”
The Sharks had many fine contributors, but none better than Bonbeach superstar McDonald who won the VCFL Medal for a mesmerising performance up forward. The Sharks needed a spark in the third quarter and the 33-year-old provided it – ending the day with a match-winning six-goal haul.
Holcombe was effusive in his praise for the genial number-seven, who stood out on a day when many fine players took to the field.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you watch Macca play, sometimes you just don’t know how he does it,” he said.
“It’s probably a travesty that he didn’t go through and play league football because he’s that good. But at local level there’s nobody better to watch and he’s very dangerous up forward.”
Bonbeach star Shane McDonald stole the show with a stunning six-goal haul.
Harry Prior was instrumental in the ruck, using his bulk, size and mobility to be the best big man on the ground.
“He’s a competitive monster Harry, and his second efforts today were fantastic,” Holcombe said.
“But throw in the midfield with (Sam) Geurts, (Sean) Downie, (Dale) Sutton and (Kyle) Hutchison, and I thought their endeavour and second efforts probably got us over the line in the end.”
And were there any players that surprised him?
“Sam Geurts was amazing, Sam Fowler was great up forward and Perry Lewis-Smith came in late and he was fantastic as well,” he said.
“I knew these blokes could play, but their willingness to compete and win the contested ball was first class and I’m really appreciative of their efforts.”
Holcombe was personally excited to take the MPNFL back to the brink of the number-ranking in the state.
“I’m chuffed with the whole thing, very appreciative in the first place to coach this group but also proud that we’ve made it back to the number-one game next year,” he said
“But the players are the ones who commit, and put their bodies on the line, and I’m just along for the journey.
The winning coach had a few thank yous in signing off.
“My assistant coaches Bevan Malloy, Brendan Dunne and Andrew Morrison have been fantastic this year, along with all the support staff,” he said.
“And to Haydn Parsons and the guys at the MPNFL, thank you for just having the faith in me to coach the side.”
The day didn’t start so well for the Sharks, with the Under-19s leaving their run too late against a well-drilled opponent. Red Hill’s Daniel Frampton was voted the best player on the ground for the Sharks, who trailed by 48 points at half time before cutting the margin back to a respectable 23 points at the final siren.
And the netball girls ran into a very talented side with Ovens and Murray scoring a 58-26 victory in front of a good crowd on the main court at Olympic Park. Rosebud’s Emma White was a popular winner of the best-on-court medal.
Mornington Peninsula Nepean FL 3.3 4.7 11.9 16.16.112
Ovens and Murray FNL 5.6 7.7 9.9 10.11.71
MPNFL Goals: S. McDonald 6, S. Gladman 3, C. Buchan 2, P. Lewis-Smith 2, S. Fowler, B. Quigley, D. Sutton. Best: Shane McDonald (Medal), S. Geurts, M. La Fontaine, P. Lewis-Smith, H. Prior, J. Siversen.
O&M Goals: L. Taylor-Nugent 3, L. Dale 3, L. Garland, T. Hargreave, A. Johnson, B. Melville. Best: Nathan Cooper (Medal), M. Brennan, B. St John, S. Mannagh, R. Joliffe, J. Anderson.
Mornington Peninsula Nepean FL 0.1 1.1 2.5 6.6.42
Ovens and Murray FNL 5.4 8.7 8.8 9.11.65
MPNFL Goals: C. Battams 2, J. Triep 2, L. Cox, C. De Merlo. Best: Daniel Frampton (Medal), J. Berenger, C. De Merlo, L. Gorka, C. Battams, R. Nanscawen.
O&M Goals: K. Heiner-Hennessy 4, J. Gerrish 2, R. Brice 2, J. Ardern. Best: Jake Bradshaw (Medal), L. Saunders, H. Smart, J. Gerrish, N. Amery, J. Smart.
Mornington Peninsula Nepean FL 16 34 46 58
Ovens and Murray FNL 7 11 15 26
MPNFL Medal: Emma White (Rosebud)
O&M Medal: Sarah Meredith (Lavington)
Emma White (netball) and Daniel Frampton (under 19s) were thoroughly deserving medalists.