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Melbourne Football Club

VFL Team Review: Grand Final

The Casey Demons fell agonisingly short of a VFL premiership, coming runners up to the Box Hill Hawks in devastating fashion at Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

After falling behind at stages in previous weeks, Casey ensured it didn’t have to play catch up, jumping out of the blocks with the first four goals of the match. The Demons looked to be in complete control, dominating the footy and pressuring Box Hill into errors in the first half.

But after some wasted opportunities in the second term, Hawk Dylan Moore benefited from a free kick to slot a crucial goal after the half-time siren and cut the margin to 17 points.

From that point, the momentum seemingly shifted in Box Hill’s favour as it began to gain some ascendancy and outscored the Demons to draw within nine points at the final change.

Tempers flared after the three quarter-time siren with a scuffle between a mass of players taking place, but it just spurred the Hawks on as they kicked three unanswered goals in the final term to run away with a 10-point victory.

Casey appeared to tire in the final term as the Hawks leg speed proved too much to handle, ending an impressive season on a desperately sour note.

Telling stat
With the undersized Tim Smith and Cam Pedersen shouldering the ruck duties, experienced Hawk Marc Pittonet took full toll. Box Hill had 77 hit outs to Casey’s 24, as the Hawks exploited that area of the game. Pittonet’s aerial dominance was profound, putting the ball on a platter for his midfielders and getting on top as the game wore on.

Bugg 24, C. Wagner 21, Fritsch, Vince 20, Kennedy-Harris 18, Smith 16, Freeman, J. Wagner, White 14.

Bugg, Kennedy-Harris, Lefau, Lockhart, Machaya, Pedersen, Scott, T. Smith.

3 Votes: Bayley Fritsch
At 21 years of age, Bayley Fritsch was dealt one of the cruellest blows in footy – being dropped for an AFL Preliminary Final. After playing 23 senior games, Fritsch was left out of Melbourne’s side and pulled on the Casey guernsey for the first time this season on Sunday. And he did himself proud.

The silky left footer was a tremendous addition to the Demons side, delivering the ball out of defence and helping Casey rebound all afternoon. Fritsch – who was drafted from Casey in 2017 – performed gallantly and demonstrated his professionalism after travelling to Perth as an emergency for Melbourne on the eve of the Grand Final.

2 Votes: Corey Wagner
Corey Wagner just doesn’t seem to play a bad game. He is a reliable performer who has played his role every week this season and gathered 21 disposals on the biggest stage of all. Wagner grew with confidence throughout 2018 and cemented his spot in the centre of the field, eventually leading Casey’s midfield with his attack on the ball and gut running. He had another strong outing in the Grand Final and tried to will his side over the line.

1 Vote: Declan Keilty
Key defender Declan Keilty worked brilliantly with Harry Petty on Sunday to deny the Hawks of easy scoring opportunities. The pair have a great ability to read the ball in the air and time their leaps without getting in each other’s way. Keilty spoiled the ball to ground consistently in the first half and positioned himself well to deny Box Hill of forward entries.

Apologies to
After such a positive start to the match, there were too few contributors in the latter stages of the game. Unfortunately, many Demons had off-days, but Tom Bugg (24 disposals) and Bernie Vince (21 disposals) were two of the senior players who kept fighting when the game was drifting away.

Good to see
In testing circumstances, the Casey Demons handled the devastation of a Grand Final defeat with pure class. There was raw emotion in the rooms post-game, but the players and their loved ones rallied around each other to help embrace the situation. The Demons had a terrific year and despite the disappointing conclusion, were able to show some pride in their efforts and enjoy the night.

Coach’s say
“I think our staff and players should be commended for what they’ve been able to do over the course of the year. We just weren’t quite good enough in the moments required in the last quarter to end the season.” – Jade Rawlings