CASTLEMAINE celebrated its return to the BFNL finals series by ending Maryborough’s premiership aspirations in late August 2004.
It marked the first weekend of the ’04 finals series with the Camp Reserve Pies downing the Princes Park Pies by three goals in a sudden death Sunday elimination final.
The Maine was playing in its first end-of-season campaign since clinching the 2000 premiership and kept playing coach Paul Eyles’ bold pre-season prediction of a grand final appearance for his Magpies well and truly alive.
Following a tight opening quarter where Maryborough led by two points after four lead changes, Castlemaine took charge in the second stanza.
The Maine booted six goals to one to take a 30-point lead into the long break.
And when the Maine’s Brodie Culpitt booted the first major of the third quarter suddenly Castlemaine was out to a 37-point break.
But then Maryborough fought back. Three quick goals to Scott Sellers, ruckman Sam Steel and Ashley Evans in the space of six minutes cut the margins to 18 points.
And by the last change the Borough had closed the gap to two straight kicks and an entertaining final stanza was on the cards.
THEN best afield Nathan Gilliland, returning to the Maine senior side from a knee injury which had kept him sidelined since July 10th, booted the opening two goals of the final stanza.
Gilliland finished with a game-high four goals and his contribution sealed victory for the Camp Reserve Pies.
He was well supported by Michael ‘Apples’ Blake in attack with Blake’s strong marking a feature of the day.
Mathew Peake slotted three goals in the first half but spent the second half on the pine. He’d taken a quadriceps injury into the final and it flared up again just before half-time.
Playing in midfield and not defence for the elimination final Chris Jardine was in fine touch along with Dale Knight, while backmen Brendan Shepherd and Leigh Rees were also solid for the Maine.
Best for Maryborough who went into the game without match-winner Jamie Bond were Stephen Ross, Matt Halpin and Evans with Sellers, Glen Bardsley and David Leatch all more than useful contributors.
Bond’s case was intriguing. He’d warmed up out on the QEO before the first bounce, but retired back into the rooms and later emerged with the match in full swing in his civvies.
IN Saturday’s double-chance qualifying final, played not as a twilight game but in the afternoon, Sandhurst bounced back from a 13-point first quarter deficit to beat fierce rivals Eaglehawk by 15 points.
The resounding chorus of the Dragons’ 150-year old club song “We will always fight for victory” was never more evident than in the second half of the big final.
The Hawks turned in an outstanding effort considering two of their best players were unavailable: Daniel Geary (gastro) and Kain Robins, who’d been named in the Bendigo Bombers’ VFL finals team to play Tassie in Launceston the same weekend.
Eaglehawk re-shuffled their attack with injury-constrained Clint Whitsed in a forward pocket and Marty O’Reilly on the half-forward line.
Coach Derrick ‘Dekka’ Filo booted two marvellous first term majors, capitalising on the ruckwork of Eaglehawk’s Alan Morris.
For the first stand-in centre half-forward Filo dodged to his left, then to the right, back to the left and finally onto his right again to get the on-target shot away.
DRAGONS’ key forward Ben Sexton pinged home a sensational shot from outside the 50m arc as the Hurst struggled to stay in touch.
Hitting the big posts three times in a row didn’t help Sandhurst. But then Wayne Mitrovic snagged the first of his four goals for the afternoon, following a great long pass from Kieran Nihill.
By half-time the Hurst led by four points --- 7.7 to 6.9 --- and they added nine goals to seven in the second half. Best afield Brad Comer sealed the win with a running goal in time-on, final quarter.
The Dragons’ application and hard running led coach David Collins to praise his side for their persistence.
“Nothing will work out perfectly in a final. But even though we made mistakes we kept at it and the reward is a qualifying final victory,” he said.
Collins, of course, eventually led the Dragons to the 2004 flag, only backed up since by Hurst last September in their premiership triumph over Square.
IN THE lead-up to 2004’s finals top team Gisborne had rounded out its home and away campaign with the biggest-ever win in its five-year BFL history.
The Bulldogs blitzed Kangaroo Flat by 185 points, booting 30 goals and restricting the Roos to just three in the Round 18 fixture.
The huge margin emphasised the yawning gulf between the BFL’s top and bottom clubs.
And the Graveyard Dogs went into the match without six star players: ruckman Jason Duff-Tyler, forward Darren Farrugia, midfielders Stewart Hamilton, Ben Wilkinson and Chris Curcio and gun spearhead Steven ‘Bundy’ Reaper.
Jordan Barham booted five goals in the Gardiner Reserve romp while Shane Davis, Michael Dillon, Simon ‘Harry’ Elsum and Matt Cannard added three majors apiece.
Elsum had won the 2004 Bendigo Advertiser Player of the Year award on 33 votes, one ahead of Hurst’s Rick Andrews. In third and fourth places were Luke Saunders (Gisborne) on 25 votes and the Dragons’ Mark Vigus with 23.
Final scores: Gisborne 30.27 (207) d Kangaroo Flat 3.4 (22).
First weekend of finals, 2004
Castlemaine 4.3 10.5 12.9 15.10 (100)
Maryborough 4.5 5.5 10.9 12.10 (82)
Goals –- Castlemaine: N. Gilliland 4, M. Peake 3, S. Burchell, J. Maddern, A. Culvenor, B. Culpitt, P. Eyles, S. Carson, D. Knight, A. Conn. Maryborough: K. Reynolds 2, S. Steel, S. Ross, M. Jennings, J. Elliott, H. Pritchard, M. Halpin, M. Dell, G. Chadwick, A. Evans, S. Sellars.
Best --- Castlemaine: N. Gilliland (best on ground), M. Blake, D. Knight, L. Rees, C. Jardine, B. Shepherd, M. Peake, T. Stevens. M’borough: S. Sellars, M. Halpin, S. Ross, G. Bardsley, M. Jennings, D. Leatch, G. Chadwick.
Sandhurst 2.4 7.7 11.10 16.13 (109)
Eaglehawk 4.5 6.9 9.12 13.16 (94)
Goals – Sandhurst: W. Mitrovic 4, B. Comer 3, M. Fitzgerald 2, S. Richardson 2, K. Nihill, D. Atkinson, L. Gathercole, B. Sexton, M. Stagg. Eaglehawk: C. Whitsed 4, A. Rout 3, D. Filo 2, S. Smith 2, S. Milward, J. Quick.
Best --- Sandhurst: B. Comer (best on ground), D. Atkinson, Z. Perez, M. Stagg, W. Mitrovic, K. Nihill, R. Andrews. Eaglehawk: B. Hynes, J. Quick, M. O’Rielly, S. Milward, D. Rankin, L. Button.
Week 2, 2004 finals series -– Saturday, 2nd semis: Gisborne vs. Sandhurst. A grade netball: Kang. Flat vs. Golden Square.
Sunday first semi-finals, 2004: Eaglehawk vs. Castlemaine. Netball: Maryborough vs. Eaglehawk.
Eaglehawk faced a worrying week. Damien Lock was to front the Tribunal over an alleged striking charge on Hurst’s Kieran Nihill.
And Scott Tuddenham was on report to answer two counts of alleged use of abusive language towards an umpire.
By Richard Jones