Et­tridge stars on big stage


I woke up at quar­ter-past six. I just kept think­ing about los­ing and I just didn’t want to lose.

“I just didn’t want the other guys to feel what it was like to lose and how hard it was.”

Can­cer had gripped Tony for a “cou­ple of years”.

But it was never go­ing to pre­vent him savour­ing the fi­nal mo­ments of a premier­ship.

“He said, ‘When you win one, I’ll come up and cook a pig on the spit’, and the boys loved it,” Fan­tella said of his fa­ther’s time-hon­oured tra­di­tion, chok­ing back tears.

“We’ve done it ev­ery year. Even last year, he passed away the week af­ter the grand fi­nal, but he cooked it on the Sun­day.

“He was stuffed. He couldn’t move and he still got there. He’d do any­thing for any­one.

“So this year I wanted to keep it go­ing. I won’t do it per­son­ally, it’s too big a task, but the Croa­t­ian Hall, where he was af­fil­i­ated, will cook one up for us. We just want to keep that tra­di­tion and I’ll have a cou­ple of shots of grappa, just to know he’s there.”

Satur­day’s premier­ship ranked as one of the best for Fan­tella, who has played in a se­nior grand fi­nal in ev­ery sea­son of his ca­reer.

“You al­ways think about the first one, it’s the whole club, but they all have dif­fer­ent feels,” he said.

“The first one was amaz­ing, but in 2012 when the re­serves won as well, that was in­cred­i­ble. I liked 2014 be­cause it was af­ter a loss and North Gee­long came out stronger af­ter that win and ev­ery­one wrote us off.

“I shouldn’t have taken it per­son­ally, but I did, be­cause they’re my best mates and I see how hard they work and to hear that from peo­ple who aren’t in these walls, it hurt.

“This year is special as well. With a young list, I’ve taken on a big­ger role in the mid­field and per­son­ally it’s been my best year.

“It does feel sen­ti­men­tal, and I have never spo­ken about it . . . it’s the first time I’ve ever brought it up.

“Ev­ery time I didn’t want to go for a run, I’d go be­cause I’d think about Dad, so this will go down as one of the best.” A SIX-GOAL haul from Jay­den Et­tridge proved just enough for the Bell Post Hill for­ward to take out the best-on-ground hon­ours in the GDFL grand fi­nal.

The 23-year-old had only 13 dis­pos­als in the Pan­thers’ 39-point win over In­ver­leigh but he out­polled vet­eran Adrian Fan­tella (who fin­ished with 28 dis­pos­als) by a sin­gle vote thanks to a dy­namic first half.

“I’m glad I was able to do this on the biggest stage of all,” Et­tridge said.

“I had a few in­juries ear­lier in the year but I was fresh to­day and that’s all that you can ask for.”

The for­mer Anakie goal­sneak was held goal­less three times against Ban­nock­burn this year. But he sought re­demp­tion in the sec­ond term, kick­ing three goals in the space of six min­utes to hand his side a 25-point lead.

“I had a few down games and some mem­bers of the me­dia bashed me down a lit­tle bit,” Et­tridge laughed.

“But I wasn’t go­ing to let the side down to­day.”

Et­tridge said the Pan­thers re­mained con­fi­dent even as the Hawks came back in the third term.

“We had enough of a lead to keep them at bay,” he said.

“Now you can just see by the faces of all of our sup­port­ers that it’s go­ing to be a big night.”

Et­tridge fin­ished the year with 76 goals, polled 11 Whit­ley Medal votes and held a se­lec­tion in the GDFL team of the year. “You have to pay trib­ute to the en­tire back six on games like to­day,” Et­tridge said.


FOR DAD: Adrian Fan­tella gets a kick away in Satur­day’s grand fi­nal.

Jay­den Et­tridge

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