REGION’S PLAYERS BATTLE FOR FLAG
GOULBURN VALLEY PLAYERS TO FACE OFF IN BIG DANCE AS DEES LOOK TO BREAK DROUGHT AGAINST DOGS
The Goulburn Valley will have at least one football export claim an AFL premiership medal this year after Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs reached the decider.
Although a number of exports have reached the big dance in the past few years, it has been a hot minute since the region has produced a premiership winner.
All that is due to change on Saturday week evening when Mooroopna export Clayton Oliver goes up against his fellow GV exports in the AFL grand final.
Mooroopna’s Laitham Vandermeer, Kialla’s Alex Keath and Seymour’s Josh Schache are all in the mix to line-up for the Bulldogs, while Euroa’s Will Hayes is travelling with the team.
But it will be a nervous wait for Vandermeer and Keath.
The pair is recovering from hamstring tightness and is in a race against time to be declared fit.
Keath, after starring in the Dogs’ opening two finals, missed last weekend’s stunning 71-point demolition of Port Adelaide
While Vandermeer — after his match-winning rushed point against the Brisbane Lions — ended the win over the Power on the bench.
The 22-year-old booted the second goal of the match before he was subbed out late in the third quarter.
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said post-match Vandermeer was in doubt for the premiership decider.
“He’s a bit tight in the hamstring. He’s got scary history with his soft-tissue, Laith, and our guys thought if he ran any more it was just about to explode,” Beveridge said.
“He definitely feels like he hasn’t had a nasty injury, but he had to
come out of the game because he couldn’t run.
“So that’s a concern because he’s been important for us. But at the moment he’ll be doubtful.”
The resurgence of Schache at AFL level is one of the stories of the finals series this season — and there seems little coincidence the Western Bulldogs have lifted alongside him.
Tasked with a defensive forward role on Port’s aerial maestro Aliir Aliir, Schache took to the job with furious vigour.
He attacked the ball like Nick Riewoldt in his prime, dragged in six marks, laid four tackles and booted 1.3 — stamping his authority on a finals clash in such a way that reminded Bulldogs fans of Tom Boyd’s 2016 campaign.
While Aliir still managed seven marks of his own, his influence was completely curtailed by the number two draft pick and former Brisbane Lion.
“I thought his (Schache) role was pivotal in the outcome. He was really
important for us,” Beveridge said.
“He was dangerous. He probably should have had one or two more as far as the goals scored goes.
“His ability to compete in the air and reduce Aliir’s intercept, and
their whole defence’s intercept game, was outstanding.
“I’m so rapt for all the boys, but there are some lads who whether they’ve been maligned, or they haven’t necessarily cemented
themselves at the level over the journey, that are now emerging.
“I’m just so happy that they’ve persevered and they’re having a big impact in what we’re trying to achieve.”
Oliver was again at his sublime best for Melbourne in the Dees’ captivating performance against Geelong.
The Demons blitzed the Cats by 83 points to book their first grand final appearance in 21 years.
Oliver was prolific with 27 disposals and seven clearances in the triumph.
Melbourne now gets the chance to end its 57-year premiership drought.
Lastly, the season has come to an end for Echuca’s Ollie Wines, Deniliquin’s Todd Marshall, Cobram’s Esava Ratugolea and Finley’s Tom Hawkins.
Wines battled hard for the Power in the loss to the Dogs, while Hawkins and Ratugolea could not fire up forward for the Cats against Melbourne.