Forest Hill capped off a brilliant year in division four reserves with a memorable 13 point grand final victory over Chirnside Park, 10.7.67 to 7.12.54 at a slippery Walker Park last Sunday as BEN WATERWORTH reports.
A dominant and more importantly accurate second half performance from Andrew Warburton in the wet at full forward proved to be the biggest difference as Forest Hill turned it on when the game began to open up.
Warburton was simply unstoppable in the second half and latched onto numerous opportunities with two big dukes. Every time the ball was sat on top of Warburtonís head, the result was inevitable. The big bloke took five marks inside his attacking fifty and converted all of them into goals. All of his five goals came when the game was in the balance as well.
He had classy and skilful service from the Forest Hill midfield, which included best-on-ground Robert Di Naccio, Ash Jones and Tim Yates. All of these players made a serious impact on the match with their run, carry and delivery of the football. Mark Smith did a great job in shutting down danger man Ryan Gromadovski and allowed his other midfielders to give the Zebras forward line every opportunity to score.
With a number of players who had been brought into the side who had played at senior level throughout year, Chirnside Park was unable to capitalise on the scoreboard when it counted for the most. Unlike Forest Hill, they lacked a tall forward target inside their attacking 50 and it was a too greater task for the smaller forward line.
The first quarter was tightly contested with both sides finding goals hard to come by. Forest Hillís midfield looked the goods early, winning the clearances 13-3, but they were only able to kick 2.2 to 1.2 in the quarter. Yates and Jones in the centre were able to get on top of Chirnside Parkís midfield and drove the ball inside 50, constantly putting the Panthers defense under enormous pressure. However, Warburton was unsighted during the quarter and both sides failed to implement scoreboard pressure.
It was much the same in the second term, with only one goal being scored for the entire quarter, that going to Forest Hillís Brendan Streader early on. However, it was Chirnside Park who had plenty of opportunities to score from good forward thrusts, especially late in the quarter. They took three marks inside 50, but unfortunately didnít reward any of the good work done by the midfield as they failed to convert any chances into goals. All of those three marks inside 50 were taken in difficult positions though, and credit has to go to the disciplined back six of Forest Hill. Rohnan Laws and Jeremy Millar were awesome throughout the entire game and in the second quarter, the whole defense forced Chirnside Park to lead wide and further up the ground, which therefore caused the Panthers to take more difficult shots, and inturn saw them down by 12 points at the break.
Even though Forest Hill started with a bang, Chirnside Park worked their way back into the contest in the third quarter. Chris Capuano and the Gromadovski boys started to get their hands on the ball and gave Evan Westmore and the rest of the Panthers forward line ample chances. However, if it wasnít for inaccurate kicking for goal, it could have been Chirnside Park going into the final quarter with a handy lead. Forest Hill, through three goals from Warburton, kicked 5.4 to 3.4 in the term, and with the same amount of scoring shots, it was a case of what couldíve been for the Panthers. Chirnside Park was lifted by an exhilarating but rare torpedo goal from the centre square by Jason Ince at the 27 minute mark. It brought the margin back to 22 points at the final break and gave Chirnside Park some momentum going into the final term.
Once again, the panthers squandered shots at goal and rued missed opportunities early in the final quarter. With the zebras restricted to only 2.0, both from the boot of Warburton, Chirnside Park were unable to capitalise on the scoreboard themselves. With the two Gromadovski boys looking dangerous playing out of the goal square, Chirnside Park only managed to kick 3.3, with most of those goals coming too late in the game. Even when the panthers challenged late, the solid Forest Hill defence stood tall and firm in the closing minutes, as the zebras hung on for an unforgettable victory.
There were scenes of jubilation after the match as captain Wayne Singleton and coach Brad Tuite lifted the premiership high into the air. And even though their senior side failed to make it to the finals, the Zebras can be reassured that there will plenty of players from the premiership reserves side that will be knocking on the door next season for senior selection.