Demons hold on in thriller

The finale of the Western Border Junior football and netball competitions did not disappoint after players thrilled spectators on the court and the oval at McLaughlin Park on Saturday.

The top grades in both codes produced nail-biting deciders and the youngsters’ skills under pressure kept fans on the edge of their seats.

On the football field, the stars were aligned for Millicent to experience a dream day hosting the grand final after its Under 18 and 16 sides both went through the home-and-away season undefeated.

But a special South Gambier performance was not part of the script and the Demons agonisingly ruined the home side’s fairy-tale.

The dramatic day concluded with a tense Under 18’s decider.

After a cruising to the minor premiership the Saints were the favourites, but suffered a slow start as South made its intentions clear.

The Demons kicked the opening goal and shut down Millicent’s forward line during a first-quarter stalemate.

The Saints were forced to wait until the eight-minute mark of the second term to finally score through Conall Schultz.

The successful dribble kick brought Millicent back in the game after the home team stepped up in the second term to level the scoreboard.

But the Saints’ good work was undone by a late goal for South, which maintained its small advantage at the main break.

Millicent then turned the tide with fast ball movement through the middle from the likes of Frazer Bradley and Kade Varcoe.

The Saints attacked their forward 50 and initially struggled to find their radar.

But two quick goals pushed the home side into the lead for the first time.

However, it did not last long as the surge fired up the Demons and they threatened to regain control.

The strong skills of Oscar Adams and Jake Walker were on show for all to see, but South could not translate the momentum on the scoreboard.

Millicent’s defenders stood tall with a series of smothers to protect a seven-point lead heading into the final quarter.

With the prize on the line a scrappy period of play opened the fourth term.

But the home side landed the first punch after a precise chain of kicks found the chest of Schultz, who slotted his second major.

The important goal put the Saints in a commanding position leading by a game-high 13 points, but the Demons found the perfect response.

South’s midfield exploded from the stoppages and caught their opponents on the back foot.

In turn the visitors’ forwards found plenty of space inside 50 and Ryan Kuhl, Joel Duncan and Oli Thomson all scored crucial goals during the match-winning passage of play.

Suddenly the Demons led by six points and it was game on with plenty of time left on the clock.

Millicent managed to lock the ball inside 50, but could not convert on the score board as a sea of bodies surrounded the contest.

The crowd reached full voice as the final siren approached, but South’s desperation saved the day to confirm a six-point win and cue wild celebrations.

Adams was named best on ground for his strong work in the middle.
The Under 16’s Grand Final followed a similar script between Millicent and South Gambier Red.

The Saints entered with confidence and kicked the first goal of the day, but the Demons were able to enjoy most of the play.

However, the visitors could not kick straight and missed all their opportunities, which ensured the home side led at the first break.

Another evenly matched quarter followed and Millicent held onto a slender single-figure lead at half time.

But South Red turned the tables with a dominant “premiership quarter” performance led by some opportunistic play.

Liam Turley rose to the occasion and slotted two important goals to hand the Demons the lead as the Saints did not register a score in the third term.

With South Red holding a game high 10-point lead at the final break, Millicent launched a counter-attack and kicked truly in the first minute of the fourth term.

Despite clawing the deficit back to two points with two minutes to go, the Saints’ charge was stopped by the Demons’ outstanding tackling pressure.

South Red’s composure with the game on the line ensured a thrilling 26 – 24 win.

Millicent was left to ponder what could have been, but Kynan Dunn stood tall to earn best-on-ground honours.

South Gambier White could not make it a hat-trick of premierships after North Gambier dominated a one-sided Under 14’s decider.

Led by Declan Ilsley, the Tigers raced out of the blocks with four quick goals before the quarter time siren.

The Demons managed to control the bleeding through the middle stages before North charged towards the siren.

South White only recorded two behinds for the entire game as the Tigers eased to a 62-point win.

North’s Richard Kinyabuguma improved as the game went on and claimed the best-on-ground award.

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