Yarra Junction ended its’ 28 year premiership drought at the Healesville Sports Complex on Sunday, emphatically defeating the minor Premiers Seville, to complete their impressive overhaul of the clubs recent woes and win the AFL Yarra Ranges ‘Community Bank’ Football & Netball, Division Two Aurora Café & Bar Division Two Premiership.
The Eagles were in control of the encounter after the five minute mark of the first quarter, completely and utterly obliterating the Blues, as 10 Eagles hit the scoresheet in the incredible 96 point victory, the final score reading Yarra Junction 20.17(137) Seville 6.5.(41).
You would’ve been considered a maniac for predicting that scoreline after the first five minutes of the game however, and despite Jim Wandin Medalist Mark Cecere starting deep forward (Cecere was found to be carrying an injury into the decider) Seville started the better of the two sides. Speedster, Dylan Broadway kicked the first of the game after laying an impressive tackle inside forward fifty.
It would be a fleeting highlight for the Blues fans, as the on ball brigade of John Holmes, Cameron Hoare, Jesse Bombinski and Kurt Robb began to get on top in the centre of the ground, dominating the clearances. Much of this would be thanks to ruckman Troy Armstrong who seemed to have a magnet implanted in the middle of his right palm. The number 17 would end the game with well over 60 hit outs and countless marks.
All of this clearance work ensured that Seville couldn’t set up numbers behind the ball, and this allowed space for the Junction forwards. One man who took a liking too it was Tyson Wheeler. The midsized marking target had an impressive six scoring shots in the first quarter, and a couple that also missed the lot. Luckily for Seville and Aaron Wind he only managed to convert two of them through the big sticks, meaning that this open and free flowing game was still in the balance at the first break, 5.5 to 3.1.
It was fair to say this clash had some extra spice to it. Both sides ended the first quarter a man short when Ryan Bombinksi and Paul Bailey, of Yarra Junction and Seville respectively, were both shown a yellow card late in the first quarter for an altercation in the Junction forward fifty. After quarter time it was clear that the heat of the game was getting to one side in particular, whilst the other was able to toe the line with the expertise of a tightrope walker.
The second term was the beginning of the end for Seville, as Yarra Junction began to produce goals like they were going out of fashion. Some wonderful team play from Armstrong, Holmes and Hoare ended with Tom Boxell kicking his first of the quarter. Wheeler somewhat found his kicking boots slotting through two more of his own and crowd favourite and Assistant Coach Leigh McCombe slotted through his first of the afternoon. Despite the best efforts of James Cecere, Yarra Junction continued their exploitation of a weakened Seville on ball brigade, as speedster’s Brad Clark and Leigh Hoffman began to showcase their pace and Sam Cannon gave multiple glimpses of his long penetrative kicks.
As the sides entered the half time break the only downside for Yarra Junction was the quad injury to Tom Boxell. He’d still had a major impact however, kicking two goals in that second term. Seville was clinging on for dear life, but their grip was loosening at an incredible rate, as they trailed by 49 points at the main break.
Any hopes of a Seville comeback were dashed almost as quickly as they were constructed. The Eagles were in no mood to keep the crowd interested as they picked up from where they left off. Troy Armstrong continued to monster his opponent around the ground, and the Eagles got stuck in.
To Seville’s credit they were able to negate the third term, keeping Yarra Junction to just two goals, kicking one themselves through Josh Neal. There were valiant efforts around the ground from the Blues, with Thomas Groen, the aforementioned James Cecere, Bryce Penwill and Jack Larkin putting in impressive performances, especially considering the scoreboard. However the constant turnovers, off the ball free kicks and sheer inability to win the contested football remained ever-present, contrasting beautifully with the slick Eagles.
The final quarter can be aptly described as junktime, as both sides began thinking about the end of the game, albeit with different motives. One itching to get inside and forget a torrid afternoon, the other desperate to soak up the glory of premiership success. Leigh McCombe added two more to his match day tally, the mulletted Kurt Robb kicked two of his own and Sam Cannon exemplified the lack of intensity as he stepped through multiple Blues defenders before slotting a running check side from the pocket to put the cherry on top of an enormous Eagle shaped cake.
After the game the Yarra Junction Captain-Coach John Holmes spoke about the incredible turnaround that the football club had completed in just two years.
“We were in debt two years ago, we had three or four players hanging around when I took over, so we had blokes coming out of retirement, we were calling anyone and everyone,”.
Yarra Junction finished the 2017 season in seventh position with just five victories. But Holmes says that the culture the club was building was evident.
“We ended up with a good core group of players and the beauty of it was, even though we were getting beaten last year, we had good people around the club so people stuck fat.”
With the competition becoming the AFL Outer East for 2019, Yarra Junction will be the last ever premiers of the AFL Yarra Ranges Division Two, but that thought hadn’t crossed the coach’s mind.
“The biggest thing for us, is that the club hasn’t had any success for 28 years, so now we can build on this as a footy club and people can have success at the footy club and they will stick around at the footy club once they’ve retired.”
One player who has definitely stuck around is Allan Chandler. The dashing and skilful wingman was one of the four players Holmes mentioned that were left at the club when he took over at the end of 2016.
He says he tried to maintain his focus as his beloved Eagles kicked away during the second quarter.
“I tried not to think about it (winning the premiership), I didn’t want to celebrate too early, not till the last five minutes, but we knew we were on from the first bounce.”
Chandler doesn’t think this will be the last we hear from this Junction side either.
“We’re up and about mate, everyone’s so excited, we’ve all worked so hard for this, and this, this has been great, there’s no better feeling in footy than what I feel right now.”
Yarra Junction’s indomitable ruckman, Troy Armstrong was awarded the medal for Best on Ground.
AFL YARRA RANGES FOOTBALL NETBALL LEAGUE AURORA BAR AND CAFE DIVISION TWO GRAND FINAL
YARRA JUNCTION 5.5 11.10 13.12 20.17(137) defeated SEVILLE 3.1 4.3 5.4 6.5(41)
YARRA JUNCTION: T.Armstrong*, J.Holmes, C.Hoare, T.Wheeler, M.Sword, K.Robb
SEVILLE: J.Cecere, T.Groen, J.Larkin, J.Neal, B.Penwill, C.Suban
YARRA JUNCTION: T.Wheeler 5, L.McCombe 3, T.Boxell 2, S.Cannon 2, K.Robb 2, H.Tindley-Roe 2, R.Bombinksi, J.Holmes, C.Hoare, S.Morton
SEVILLE : J.Neal 3, D.Broadway, J.Fraser, L. O’Keefe
*denotes Best on Ground
By: Matt Fotia