Belci flies in flag decider
WANGARATTA Rovers and Beechworth’s Alessandro Belci are the 2018 Ovens and Murray under 18 premiers.
Belci helped lead the Hawks to the premiership after withstanding a fierce second half comeback from Yarrawonga to defeat the Pigeons by 11 points in a thrilling contest at the Norm Minns Oval, Wangaratta on Sunday.
The Hawks led by 37 points at the main break after a brilliant first half, however, the Pigeons surged back into the contest with a six-goal burst in the third term.
Both sides looked out on their feet with the sun shining on a beautiful Norm Minns Oval surface and the ball seemed to spend most of its time going between half back and half forward.
But when the game needed a match winner, Leo Dean Medallist Ed Dayman quite literally stood tall for the Wangaratta team.
Dayman marked everything that came his way in the final quarter and capped off a best on ground display to win the Brett Kirk Medal by kicking the only goal of the final quarter.
With the Rovers leading by just four points, Dayman took his seventh contested mark for the day and while he was nestled tight in the forward pocket, he made no mistake from about 40 metres out.
The goal seemed to take the sting out of the Pigeons’ charge and with the siren sounding moments later, it capped of an 11.12 (78) to 10.7 (67) victory for the Hawks.
The win also extracted revenge for the Hawks, who were beaten by the Pigeons in the second semi final, however, the end result probably shouldn’t have been as tight as it was.
With the pressure right up at the final change, Rovers coach Jason Gorman told his players not to panic and to trust the systems that had served them so well this season.
And after the first 15 minutes saw the Hawks withstand everything the Pigeons could throw at them, it was fitting that Dayman iced the match with the only goal.
The victory was the Hawks’ first under 18 premiership since 2008 and ended what had been a tough season for the club on a bright note.
Belci, who crossed over from playing a handful of games at Wodonga Raiders and Beechworth Bushrangers in 2017, showed the tenacity and poise on the big stage to be proud of his impact on the game.
His hardness at the ball and craft with ball in hand was vital in critical moments of the match.
Belci will head into his top-age thirds year in 2019.
PREMIERSHIP PLAYER: Alessandro Belci (right) embraces teammate Harrison McCarthy after the Ovens and Murray thirds’ grand final.