IN PERFECT footy conditions at Box Hill City Oval, the Footscray Bulldogs put on an incredible display to defeat the Casey Demons by 79 points, the final score 22.16 148 to 10.9 69.
The game began in possibly the most predictable style for finals football. High energy, plenty of emotion, fast tempo and the pressure meter flying through the roof.
It was a hot footy with neither team letting up early on.
Trading goal for goal in the opening stages, the game was shaping up to be a finals classic.
As they began warming into the contest, the Bulldogs ramped up their pressure on the ball carrier.
Casey were struggling to find time and space when in possession and constantly found themselves turning the ball over in dangerous areas.
Despite the Demons mistakes, it was still a very contest heavy term, playing to the favour of the reigning premiers.
However, the Bulldogs were able to pull away with three late goals to end the term, a frustrating end for what was a tight opening quarter.
Footscray were able to continue their hunt and pressure on the ball in the second quarter.
They were even able to increase their desire for the football and the Casey Demons quickly found themselves knee high with problems.
On top of the contest, winning the ball out the back, intercepting the long Casey entries, the Bulldogs were out in full force.
Three goals in three minutes saw the Bulldogs pull out to a 41-point lead before goals from Roan Steele (2) and Ryan Valentine saw Casey pull back the margin.
At the main break, the Demons were down by 35 points.
Another two goals with more than 30 minutes gone in the quarter saw the total increase to five, including the three from the first term.
The third quarter, well they call it the premiership quarter and the Bulldogs proved their worth.
Six unanswered goals for the Bulldogs saw them all but wrap up the game and kill the hope that Casey had of back-to-back flags.
It was total domination around the ground.
Casey couldn't find targets when exiting their defensive 50 and Footscray made the Demons pay for their mistakes time and time again.
It wasn't until late on in the third term when George Grey managed to end the goal streak and get some points on the board for the Demons.
Despite the game being all but lost by three quarter time, coach Taylor Whitford challenged the group to leave nothing out on the ground in their final period for 2023.
“All I want is your best contest for 30 minutes, that's it, that's all I want” said Taylor at the three quarter time address.
The forth was a similar story to the third apart from times when Casey managed to find their moments inside 50.
Andy Moniz-Wakefield came up with two magical moments to kick his only two goals for the game.
And Roan Steele managed to top off a disappointing team performance by kicking five goals for himself with two in the last five minutes of the game.
It goes without saying that it was a year of ups and down for Casey.
In complete contrast to last year, Casey will have a lot of areas for improvement in 2024 and will no doubt be back and firing with more experience and development in the younger group.
“I think it is just about consistency and that will come with more development of our young playing group” Captain Mitch White said post game.
“We don't feel the need to top-up individual personnel in the side, we just need to get another pre-season into the likes of Roan Steele, Tyler Edwards, Finn Emile-Brennan, Ziggy Toledo and Ned Moodie” Coach Taylor Whitford told Casey Media.
A year that was always going to be a challenge, had plenty of ups and some painful downs.
But it is the tough moments that develop the team for the future and there's no doubt in anyone's mind that the Casey Demons will once again be back in 2024.
CASEY: 2.4 5.4 6.9 10.9 69
FOOTSCRAY: 5.3 10.9 16.11 22.16 148
GOALS: 5 Steele, 2 Moniz-Wakefield, 1 Valentine, 1 Munro, Grey
DISPOSALS: 30 Munro, 24 Harmes, 23 Freeman, 16 White, 15 Edwards