A STIRRING second-half comeback has powered the Casey Demons to defeat the Sandringham Zebras by 12 points on Sunday at Trevor Barker Beach Oval, keeping the Club’s finals ambitions alive.
Casey Demons 12.11 (83) defeated Sandringham Zebras 11.5 (71).
After a lacklustre first half which saw the Zebras take a 23-point lead into the main break, an impassioned plea from captain Mitch White before the second half began fuelled his Demons to discover a newfound determination and earn the come from behind victory.
Making the win all the more impressive was the Demons were down a rotation for the entire match, after returning Melbourne forward Sam Weideman suffered what appeared to be a concussion in the opening minute of the match in a marking contest and didn’t return to the game.
But the remaining 22 Demons dug deep and secured the victory, delighting their head coach.
“It was a fantastic win,” head coach Sam Radford told Melbourne Media post-game.
“Obviously losing Sam wasn’t ideal and we weren’t playing our best footy in the first half.
“But we just kept grinding away after half-time and to get the comeback win was really pleasing.”
It was a completely different mentality from Casey after the main break, rather than the slow build-up of the first half, the side played with a free-flowing nature which had immediate results.
Moving the ball with speed along the wings and into the forward 50 allowed the Casey attackers to have clean marking opportunities ahead of their defenders.
The strategy worked with the Demons able to string together four consecutive goals in the term, including two majors to the Captain himself to trim the deficit to under a goal at the third quarter siren, before going on to run out winners in an impressive hard-fought performance.
“We wanted to be braver and take the game on,” Radford said.
“You want to play your football and be happy while you’re doing it.
“So really proud of how the boys dug deep and kept going.”
One of the major reasons the Casey midfielders were able to deliver to the forwards was having the service they received out of the stoppages thanks to the outstanding game by Braydon Preuss.
The Demons ruckman was the best player on the ground in a dominant performance, recording an astonishing 59 hit-outs, 27 possessions, 14 clearances, four tackles and even booting a goal for good measure, in what was his best game for Casey yet.
But Preuss wasn’t the only Melbourne Demon who was firing, with the duo of Marty Hore and Declan Keilty providing the Demons defence with stability when the side was on the ropes.
“I wasn’t really happy with how we were defending in the first half,” Radford said.
“But in the second half some really good spoils and defending, Marty was brilliant, and having Declan going back [in the second half] was really good.”
The duo recorded inspiring performances while stifling Sandringham’s attacks to limit the Zebras to only four second-half scoring shots and repelling the ball forwards.
Another major reason the Zebras lost the drive out of the middle was the work of Jimmy Munro on St. Kilda AFL-star Jack Stevens.
Being challenged by his coach to attempt to stem the elite midfielder's influence on the game, Munro not only matched Stevens for possessions in the opening quarter of 12, but held the Zebras midfield to only seven more for the match, while Munro recorded his second 30 possession game in the last two weeks.
“Jack is obviously a gun AFL player and he started really well,” Radford said.
“But we stuck with Jimmy and he kept grinding away and he did a great job.”
The win surges the Demons into 9th spot on the VFL ladder sitting two points out of the top eight but will face their toughest test of the season next week in Round 18 when Casey heads to the Swinburne Centre to play league-leaders Richmond on Saturday afternoon.
But while that game looms next week, for now the Demons can enjoy one of the best wins of their season to date.
CASEY DEMONS 2.0 4.5 9.9 12.11 (83)
SANDRINGHAM 4.1 8.4 10.4 11.5 (71)
Preuss, Munro, Hore, Keilty, Hutchins, Dunkley
White 3, Melksham, Dunkley, Lockhart 2, Preuss, Jordon, Lefau