By David Nagel
Talk about pressure…not since Rocky II has a sequel generated more expectation and excitement than the huge clash between Pines and Sorrento at Frankston Park on Sunday.
Let’s be honest – we all went looking for this remake of the 2018 box-office hit when fixtures were released last year. The build-up and drama associated with one of the great grand finals of all time will certainly be hard to emulate – but if anyone can do it it’s these two.
Let’s take a quick step back in time and set the scene for Sunday’s 11am start – the co-star to the VFL clash between Frankston and North Melbourne that appears certain to steal the spotlight.
Pines won an epic grand final by one point last year – 14.12.96 to 14.11.95 – with half-forward Aaron Ludewig entering MPNFL folklore with a nervous kick after the siren that scraped through for a point to give the Pythons their first senior premiership since 1994.
But that only told part of the story, with suspension, appeals, social media interaction, a huge crowd – and even a streaker – all playing a part in a memorable landscape of football.
And it all ended with both clubs having a huge amount of respect for the other, as Pines premiership coach Paddy Swayn explained in a post-match interview.
“I feel for Sorrento because that was a great game of footy,” Swayn said.
“Even after everything that has gone on during the week, I think the 44 players that played in that game will always have a special bond. The size of the crowd, the quality of the game, everyone involved in both clubs should be extremely proud of what was produced on the biggest day of the year.
“Our 1995 side that lost to Hastings has a similar bond, that was a huge day as well, but this was something else.”
Pines and Sorrento produced a tough, absorbing and epic MPNFL Division One grand final in 2018.
It certainly was Paddy, but we have to move on now to the next thrilling instalment between the Pythons and Sharks – that currently sit one-two on the ladder.
Pines has had a couple of hiccups in recent times, going down to Dromana and Rosebud, while a round-six loss to Frankston is the only time that the Sharks haven’t fine-tuned the vocal chords.
The Pythons recaptured some winning form last week against Mornington, with last year’s grand final best-on-ground – Perry Lewis-Smith – reminding everyone of his sublime talents with a five-goal effort from the midfield.
Brandon Lewis and Jacob Boyle were also impressive performers, while Luke Potts and Luke Dalmau will be ready for a huge battle with the Sharks’ midfield after setting Alexandra Park alight.
And Sorrento – well the Sharks have been the most consistent team this season and have a comfortable percentage advantage over the rest of the competition.
And surely – as Sharks should be so close to Port Phillip Bay – they’ll be hungry!
Dangerman Leigh Poholke is having a magical season, and was once again the difference with a five-goal haul against Rosebud last week, while players like James and Mitch Hallahan, Shannon Gladman and Matt Dobrowolski will be keen to extract a little bit of payback from last year.
And the Sharks recruited ruckman Luke Lowden to perform specifically on this centre stage. Sorrento won only one of its four meetings against the Pythons in 2018 – but they’ll turn the tables this week.
It’s the Sharks to win the highly-anticipated sequel by 13 points.
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