The Collie Eagles Football Club league side has clinched a home final with a come-from-behind victory over Harvey-Brunswick-Leschenault in round 18.
The Eagles needed a victory to clinch second place on the SWFL ladder, while the Lions’ side was looking to redeem itself following losses to Donnybrook and Augusta-Margaret River Hawks.
HBL won the loss and elected to kick to the southern end, hoping strong winds would assist throughout the first quarter.
HBL’s Dylan Heasman kicked the opening goal straight after the first bouncedown.
Jarrad Watson was caught holding the ball, setting up Joel Houghton for a set shot on goal. Fans’ faces then dropped as the ball was pushed through the point posts by the wind.
The Lions’ midfield was unstoppable, with kicks and handballs finding their targets around the ground.
The visitors’ defence blocked crucial chances for Collie before HBL’s Kale Triplett kicked the Lions’ second goal.
Collie found some relief when Kyle Shanahan kicked his side’s first goal close to the 50 metre line.
Houghton slotted his first for the game before Lion Jack Quinn answered with two goals to keep his side in front.
Trailing 4.1.25 to 2.2.14 at quarter time, Collie’s league coach Clint Swallow reinforced that HBL were tougher and were always first on the ball.
He pushed Collie’s troupe to kick it to the hot spots and work on disposals.
“You should be as angry and dirty individually as you are as a group,” he said.
The second quarter started with fire and brimstone, as Collie coaching staff were made furious by multiple umpiring decisions.
“The circus is in Bunbury!,” one said, as HBL took control and maintained possession.
Eagle Matt Blackford, sporting a large bandage around his head, responded angrily to several comments coming from the side line.
Both sides were eager to nab the four points, with rough tackles and smothers dominating play.
Houghton kicked his second while HBL’s “gadget man” Cameron Hill responded to keep the Lions ahead on the scoreboard.
Witnessing his team falling behind at half time, Swallow gave his an ultimatum – either secure a home final or gift it to the Lions.
Swallow urged his side to be disciplined, smart and accountable as well as talk around the stoppages and man up on all HBL players (“don’t think, do”).
Collie’s Blair Malatesta took Swallow’s advice on board and scored the opening goal of the quarter.
Soon after, Mark Williams ran through the forward 50 and slotted the ball comfortably through the posts.
The visitors then took their opportunities, as Heasman and Triplett’s goals kept Collie from taking the lead.
Malatesta kicked his second in front of an enthusiastic home crowd. HBL’s brave defenders then blocked Teke Vernon’s attempt on the line.
Collie’s kicking improved throughout the term, with Michael Florio and Mathew Michael gifting their side the lead for the first time in the match.
Trailing by 13 at three quarter time, HBL coach Derek Hall pushed the team to maintain composure and get back to form before the finals.
He said they needed to play “percentage football” to win the day’s game and dominate the finals series.
The fourth quarter saw Collie launch into a goal-scoring onslaught. Eagles’ forwards braved HBL’s defenders and cold winds to continually win the ball.
The Eagles kicked three consecutive points as fans became visibly frustrated.
Houghton, Michael and Corey Griggs extended Collie’s lead before Heasman kicked another goal to keep the margin close.
HBL’s form diminished rapidly as Eagles Williams, Brayden Kent and Cameron Davidson put the game out of reach.
Collie’s 14.14.98 to 8.3.51 victory established them as a team worth watching in September.
Goals: Joel Houghton (3), Mathew Michael (2), Blair Malatesta (2), Mark Williams (2), Corey Griggs (1), Cameron Davidson (1), Michael Florio (1), Kyle Shanahan (1), Brayden Kent (1).
Best on goal: Matt Blackford (1), Paul Rinder (2), Cameron Davidson (3), Perry Francis (4), Corey Griggs (5), Teke Vernon (6).