Animals ready to Garvey it all in Grand Final

Animals ready to Garvey it all in Grand Final

Well he we are, a Reserves Grand Final.

Two weeks ago before this fateful campaign begun, the plucky bunch of twos from Burwood were written off by many before a ball had been kicked in anger, but the Animals had other plans.

In week 1, it was a systematic dismantling of a much fancied Manningham side. At times artistic, at others clinical. It set a tone.

Week 2 however was pure heart. A 22 point half time lead whittled away and eviscerated, only for a plucky well crumbed goal with 2 minutes to go to swing the match and seal a grand final berth.

That, against a team that had both times eeked out frustrating wins against Leo’s.

Which brings us to the Grand Final. Aquinas.

Aquinas have won both clashes against the Animals in 2019 comfortably, and have been the number 1 club in Division 3 football across both grades. A club destined for the pastures of Division 2 next year will be looking to leave on a high.

But this is an Animals side built to destroy dreams, and there’s one left tomorrow.

Three changes, one forced, are made to the side who’s determination and desire left all observing in awe.

Charlie Simpson is unavailable for the clash, and is replaced by Kieran Mair, who was a shining light for the Seniors last week. Adam Jopling and Tom Buick are the two unfortunate players who will not be a part of the game on Sunday, with Harry Wines and Co-Captain Adam Athorne coming in, the latter potentially playing his final game for the Animals.

However Jopling and Buick, like all who will be watching from the sideline, will be a crucial part of the game tomorrow. The Animals family is set to descend on the northern outskirts in droves.

Nothing gets the Animals Family to migrate like a Grand Final.

An 11.40am start will allow plenty of time afterwards to celebrate the season no matter the outcome, and you can expect the boys in the Twos to do their best to bring their own cup to the party.

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Premiership quarter costs Seniors

Premiership quarter costs Seniors

The saying goes that the third term is the premiership quarter, and if that is the case, the Animals definitely did not capitalise.

After taking a slender 5 point lead at the long break, Manningham would kick 6 of the 8 goals snagged in the second half to take a 15 point win and secure promotion from Division 3.

For the Animals, it was a bitter pill to swallow after what had been a superb run at the end of the season which saw them win 6 of their last 7 leading into the game.

The game was played in conditions more suitable to water polo than fast paced football, as already set in rain continued to fall for the entire first half. Both teams struggled skill wise, with multiple drop balls, and countless stoppages as at times the ball stayed stagnant, sans the occasional relieving clearance. However for the decent crowd assembled in the wet, it would do little but shift the congestion to a different part of the field.

Manningham would strike first, but the Animals would lead at quarter time as Jack Hunt kicked truly from the same spot Captain Chris Beluszar had only just missed from before. Paul Baranello would have shot on the siren after getting collected illegally, but would fail to record a much needed score.

The second quarter was the definition of wet weather footy. Neither team refused to budge an inch as the footy was locked in contest all quarter.

Both sides would nudge the ball forward occasionally, only to see it locked down once again.

Then right on half time, the long sleeved Hugh Schaeche won a free kick on a tight angle on his wrong side. That would soon not matter as a 50m penalty took him right in front and he took a one point Manningham lead and made it a 5 point Animals lead.

Manningham then came out a changed side in the 3rd. Kane Maghamez escaped the clutches of Lawrence Virgo and would break the game open as he kicked the Cobras clear.

But the Animals refused to lie down, unless forced, and when captain Chris Beluszar was on the receiving end of an illegal bump, a red card swung the game the Animals favour.

Matt Hill would slot his now commonplace tight angle finish and gave the Animals hope just before the end of the third, but a vital Manningham goal just before the siren would all but seal the deal.

The deal would then be sealed after the break, as Manningham doubled their lead. Maghamez would strike twice and prove why he will be crucial to the Cobras in Division 2.

Kieran Mair would goal late to provide hope to the more ardent of Animals in the crowd, but time would waste away and Manningham would end the Animals Senior season.

Two's two minute miracle

Two's two minute miracle

With two minutes to go in Sunday’s Preliminary Final, a man who gave himself all 6 available player votes during a game in the season justified his bluster, and in turn gave the Reserves a shot at the ultimate glory, a Reserve Grade Flag.

Zac Kearns was on hand to shark the ball and roll it from 20m out in the driving rain to snag the winning goal after the Animals had conceded a 22 point half time lead, putting an exclamation point on a breakout year for the dynamic small forward.

It was Kearns’ third of the afternoon, and it sunk Richmond hearts faster than the weather turned foul in Donvale.

It was the change in weather at half time which proved to be the turning point in the match, with the Snakes more at home in the dour conditions. Their bigger bodies of Central tossing their weight about and creating chances as they snuck their way back in to the match.

A four goal to one quarter erased all the hard work the Animals had done in the dry in the first half. Tom Birkett was back up to his usual shenanigans, as he kicked four goals in the first half to stamp his authority and leave no doubt who the premier forward of the section is.

Kearns chimed in with Emerson Lemkau as well, as the Animals lead 52-30 at half time, and left the field confident of a next week.

But then the rains came.

Birkett would snag his fifth of the contest after a superb one handed grab in the goalsquare to stem the flow for a moment, but Richmond Central pushed back hard.

Tom Shannon in the fourth term gave the Animals the lead back with half a quarter to go with a crucial set shot, but the Animals were unable to hold on and with 5 minutes left the Snakes hit the front.

But Zac Kearns had other ideas, and wasn’t ready to bow out of 2019.

He bobbed up and broke Yellow and Black hearts as the rain settled in, and so did the realisation it was the day of the Blue and the Blue.

Immediate Promotion rests on Preliminary Success

Immediate Promotion rests on Preliminary Success

Preliminary Finals, the gate keeper of the Grand Final.

Only success here allows you to go forth to the promised land. Failure leaves you to lament a failed campaign to come so close and yet feel so far away.

Defeat in a Preliminary Final is a pain that burns for 12 months. To come so close, only to fall just before making the Grand Final, for the proceeding 5 months all to count for naught, it’s unbearable.

But the joy, oh the joy. It’s a win which inspires more belief in not only one’s self, but in your team. A sudden burst of inspiration that you are now just one win from the ultimate glory.

For Emmaus St. Leo’s tomorrow, they will go through the rollercoaster of a Preliminary Final twice, successively.

Well executed wins by both Seniors and Reserves mean that Whitefriars College will be turned blue as the Animals journey north to Donvale to have two separate cracks at making the big dance.

Two shots at glory.

To understand why this is so big for the club, you first need to read the words that were spoken by long time Animals Chook O’Connor on Thursday night at Team Dinner.

“Finals don’t come around often, let alone both teams in a Prelim. It’s been a while since we’ve been at this stage. Enjoy it. Enjoy the feeling.”

O’Connor is one of six Animals that saw a seemingly insurmountable lead slip in the 2015 Division 3 Grand Final, and saw the Animals lose their first game of that year.

Chook will run out at Centre Half Back on Sunday for the 150th time as an Animal, joining the recent flurry of milestones Leo’s have been celebrating of recent. The Animals are undefeated in 2019 when celebrating a milestone.

Dan Hill makes it a double celebration, as the crafty small forward plays his 100th for the club. Hill has been one of the surprise packets of 2019, coming in late in pre-season and the season proper to stake his claim as a vital part of a forward line which when firing on all cylinders, has been found to be unstoppable.

One of the sides that have found a way to stop it are the opponents in the Seniors, at least in their most recent clash.

In the vast plains of Koonung Reserve, one of the worst days in Melbourne weather history served to help Manningham shut down the Animals, and the weather report for Whitefriars College doesn’t read pleasantly either for the free running, gun slinging Animals.

“Cloudy. Very high (95%) chance of showers, most likely during the afternoon and evening. The chance of a thunderstorm in the afternoon and evening. Possible hail. Winds west to northwesterly 30 to 45 km becoming westerly 20 to 30 km/h in the late afternoon.”

Cheers BoM.

But Manningham will need more than the weather to stop the Animals on Sunday. The return of Harry Davis up front is the only major change going in to the clash. The Co-Captains hamstring coming up the goods before the big clash.

Coach Ian Ledder’s usually shuffling of the magnets between the midfield and the forward line will see Manningham get several different looks from the Animals attack, and potentially some new problems.

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Then there’s the Reserves.

They already dealt with Manningham’s reserve side last weekend, knocking over the more fancied Cobras comprehensively on a beautiful Saturday in Bundoora.

The reward, a revenge date with Richmond Central, a team the Reserves have felt they should have dealt with twice, despite losing both.

The Reserves do lose Co-Captain Adam Athorne for the clash, but regain Fraser Walker, fresh from Senior experience. 

G-Train’s size and strength will be crucial in out-muscling a large Centrals reserve side, who are hellbent on making sure the Monday after at work is a tough slog.

The two’s also see little change, but do see Will Morris clamber on to the bench, with his height set to trouble the Snakes back 6, and also see Ethan ‘Pickles’ Phillips make a return from injury. Pickles was in fine form for the Seniors before going down against Richmond Central in Round 18.

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Animals bury Cobras in a canter

Animals bury Cobras in a canter

The sun Melbourne had gifted us on Saturday trailed into Sunday, but it brought with it threats of rain as the day wore on. Showing your allegiance in a club hoodie probably made you too warm, while baring your arms might have sent you looking for the jacket you could have sworn was in the back of the car. But the changes in the weather didn’t bother Emmaus St Leo’s seniors who recovered well from a less-than-fantastic start to their elimination final and held off a Canterbury Cobras outfit to see themselves into a preliminary final.

The Animals seniors may have met the season’s expectations by finishing top 4, but their relatively sluggish start had supporters and coaches alike wondering who it would be to break the line and fire up their teammates. For those following along at home, the scores going into the first quarter break, which had Canterbury up by 18, would have most likely sent a scare through the Animals camp, who were all still riding the high of the reserves’ elimination final win from the day before. Jack Hunt kicked the only goal for Emmaus St Leo’s, providing a bright spark in an otherwise Canterbury-laden quarter, much to the displeasure of Animal Hill, who’d taken up position right beside the scoreboard and would remain there for the match.

Six must be the magic number for the Animals, who came out of the quarter time huddle fired up and piled on 6 goals in the second term to kickstart their finals campaign, if but a little bit late. Hunt added to his tally with a snap kick that sailed through, and Hugh Schaeche was good early, his defensive pressure a thorn in Canterbury’s side, making matters for them worse, and adding insult to injury with a goal of his own. Jesse Collins showed no signs of the sickness he’d had for most of the weekend, slotting two late quarter goals to see his side head into the main break 19 points up. The Animals backline had apparently taken notes from their reserves’ teammates, and denied their opposition any chance at goal, with Canterbury only managing two points in 27 minutes of play. A shining light for Canterbury, particularly in the first half was their ability to win the ball out of the congestion, with players free for the handball receive. But the Animals tightened their defensive pressure in the second, denying their opposition those opportunities.

The rain started at the end of the half time break, and didn’t let up for the last half. But it didn’t deter Harry Wines, whose efforts in the reserves saw him selected for the senior team. He did what he does best, with his midfield work crucial, specifically at the beginning of the third when his efforts began a chain of possessions that resulted in a goal. For Canterbury, it was case of there being two ‘Hills’ high enough to stop them from getting the win, with both Dan Hill and Matt Hill (no relation) hitting the scoreboard for a combined effort of five goals, with three of them coming from third quarter where they were apparently the only ones given permission by the footy gods to score majors for the Animals.

With the rain still tumbling down at Whitefriars College, Emmaus St Leo’s stalwart and captain Chris Beluszar joined the goalkicking party in the fourth, with a key clearance from his Animals midfield allowing him the time to collect, turn, and kick, all in the space of twenty seconds. The celebrations came from everywhere as the Emmaus St Leo’s contingent allowed themselves a tiny moment to believe. Fired up, fellow Animals warrior Paul Baranello launched a kick from 50 out, which failed to make the distance until a shepherd on the goal line from Hill allowed the ball to bounce through, much to the confusion of those taking down stats. In a rare sight, Canterbury had an opportunity to score from straight out, but the Animals went coast to coast quickly and through movement on the wing, making them pay with another goal from Dan Hill. Jesse Collins’ best on ground performance finished with another major, taking his tally to three.

At the final siren, the rain came down harder as Canterbury were left scratching their heads at how they allowed a three-goal, first-quarter blitz to slip through their fingers. They finished 8.8.56 while Emmaus St Leo’s ended on 13.8.86. The Animals’ ability to put defensive pressure, which seemed to be a running theme through the weekend for the Emmaus St Leo’s teams, on each and every player, won it for them.

This weekend, in the preliminary final, the Animals face the Manningham Cobras, who lost to Aquinas in their Saturday semi-final, and will be looking to lock down their appearance in the grand final. First bounce for the seniors is at 2:30pm, after the reserves play Richmond Central in their own preliminary final at 12:00pm. Get down to Donvale on Sunday and watch the seniors hunt!

Animals eliminate mistakes, Cobras, to set up prelim with Snakes

Animals eliminate mistakes, Cobras, to set up prelim with Snakes

Emmaus St Leo’s reserves team may have stumbled into finals, but at Garvey Oval for their elimination final, under brilliant, shining sun and the bluest of skies, stumble the Animals did not. In what was an expert showing, the Animals systematically dismantled a Manningham Cobras side that could barely save themselves. In stark contrast to their last encounter, with conditions touted unplayable and the end result being a low-scoring affair, both teams came out with a point to prove, but it was Emmaus St Leo’s who came out on top at the final siren.

There’s bleeding for the cause, and then there’s two players coming off with the blood rule five minutes into first quarter, which immediately set the tone for the day. Hard, defensive pressure denied Manningham at halfback every time they got the ball through the midfield. Despite their efforts, the Animals only went into the first break five points up after a monster grab from Lachlan Gunn in the square resulted in the only goal of the term.

‘Animals Hill’ was well and truly alive during the second quarter, with Jonathan Greensides seemingly forgetting he was indeed playing football instead of soccer if you were to go by his goal celebration, much to the delight of the Emmaus St Leo’s seniors who’d come for support despite their game being the day after. Flynn Normand also used the support from the sidelines to boost his performance, launching a ball from what was probably outside 50 and goaling. Emerson Lemkau, who starred for the Animals all day, began his scoring efforts thanks to a contested mark and then a 50-metre penalty.

Heading into the main break up by 24 points though Manningham were lucky it wasn’t more, spirits were high, with a subtle feeling blanketing the Animals group of what might be possible.

Hunger and intent had been prevalent throughout the first half, and it didn’t let up going into the third quarter. Despite Manningham getting their first goal of the game on the back of an unfortunate free kick, the Animals revelled in the experience of playing in a final, taking their chances when they presented themselves, and properly earning the rewards they were getting for their efforts. Sean Howard, in the most obvious attempt at selling candy did so, before sending an ugly ball through the big sticks. In two separate moments, Zac Kearns and Greensides, thanks to the work of their midfield, were able to collect ground balls on the 50 metre line and kick running goals, much to the chagrin of their Manningham defenders who had been left in the dust and were nowhere to be found. Tom Birkett’s aerial efforts have always been second to none, and Saturday was no different, with his movement in the forward line finally yielding a scoreboard-result late in the third term after a contested mark, to give his team a 47-point lead at three quarter time.

At the start of the fourth quarter, ghosts of games past threatened to rear their ugly heads with Manningham putting on a three-goal blitz, before the Animals steadied the ship, unwilling to be beaten in the final term and kicking six of their own majors to finish off a stellar four-quarter performance. Birkett and Lemkau both added to their game’s tally with two more each, while Kearns kicked his second and Jason Schink joined the party, toying with the opposition and snapping truly. Proving that you apparently can’t have the good without the bad, Greensides left the field with an unfortunate shoulder injury, though he’d done his job early and contributed two goals for the game.

Those who had to pick best on ground had their work cut out for them, with efforts from every player crucial to Manningham’s defeat. Josh Webb had a day out, crunching tackles and leading from the front with his hard, defensive pressure. Garvey Oval was like Kmart just before Christmas, at least for Manningham, who didn’t have the space to move, with pressure on the ball carrier causing panic and mistakes the rare chance they’d gotten the ball clean. Alex Stokes once again showed his prowess in the ruck, with very Grundyesque ground work allowing his teammates more chances at the ball and earning himself another mention as one of six best on ground. The crowd at Garvey Oval might have possibly seen him spin out of trouble once or twice too. The Animals contingent would be hard-pressed to not be impressed by the backline, who stood strong all game, with their superior positioning allowing them to send the ball straight back out of defensive 50 if by chance it had snuck through the brick wall that appeared to be at halfback. For their efforts, they limited Manningham to 4.12.36 at the final siren, with Emmaus St Leo’s finishing 15.12.102.

Manningham will be left to rue their missed opportunities early, with their first half scoring shots all resulting in behinds. After the second quarter, with the Animals tightening up their defence, the Cobras didn’t stand a chance against a team whose first instinct was to hunt. Next up for the Emmaus St Leo’s reserves is Richmond Central, whose semi-final loss against Aquinas sees them return to Whitefriars College and aim to redeem themselves for a grand final berth. The 12:00pm reserves game will precede the senior Animals taking on Manningham who start at 2:30pm. Get down to Donvale on Sunday and see the reserves sizzle!

Promotion path meets Canterbury challenge

Promotion path meets Canterbury challenge

In life, promotion is a sought after success. Whether it be in the workplace, for businesses trying to crack a market, or in sport, promotion can only be good.

But promotion is something that is not easy to obtain, at least the best kind. The kinds of promotion that is worked for the hardest, is the one that is enjoyed the most.

That’s why the Animals path to an immediate return to Division 2 will be done the hard way, beginning via an Elimination Final against a local rival. 

It’s a recipe that would not be out of place from your most expensive cook book.

The Animals have met their immediate season expectations in making the Top 4, an. Expectation thrust upon them as the sole side sliding down to Division 3 in 2019. 

Many sides have hunted the Animals in 2019, with Canterbury getting the jump in the first clash at their home deck, with a second half blitz leaving the Animals in the rear view mirror.

It’s why the return clash, now a month in the past, was circled as a key game in making sure of a successful end to the 2019 season. 

A dynamic display, often at times leaving the “Cobbies” reeling, was thrown out in trying conditions on an even more trying deck.

Now, with both teams owning a psychological advantage over the other, the ledger will be finalised in an elimination final which will see one side left lamenting a failed season, and the prospect of another year on the VAFA’s second lowest rung, as they battle it out at Whitefriars College.

Senior football at the best of times is a spectacle at any grade. Fast, hard, tough, and leaving you spent both physically, and mentally, it is a special kind of warfare. Add in finals footy to the mix, and you’ve got an environment only the best can thrive in.

Meet Paul Baranello. 

The 8 time, potentially verging on 9 time, club best and fairest will enter yet another finals campaign, his last ending in heartbreak in 2015.

“Bara” had been predicted to see his importance in the side potentially downgrade, as the Animals next generation begins its ascension. However he was having none of that, and instead took it as a personal challenge to challenge the youngsters himself, and have himself a year, finishing last week with a 6 goal masterclass against Richmond Central.

Six is also the same amount of Animals left from the heartbreak of 2015, with Captain Chris Beluszar, Jonathan O’Connor, Lawrence Virgo, Michael Davis, and Dan Hill the remaining survivors. 

They too, feel a burn too deep to ignore heading into Sundays clash, and all six, along with a fleet of new Animals ready to shine their name in lights, with a desire to end a season, and continue their own.

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Two's quest for glory confronts Cobra challenge

Two's quest for glory confronts Cobra challenge

In a day and age where the hustle and bustle of every day life, one could argue that a VAFA Third Division Grade Elimination Final pales in comparison to the more important issues, but you would be wrong.

After a 4 game winning streak, the Animals Reserves hit a hurdle late, as two close losses from the final three games saw them stumble into the finals.

However, finals is a different beast. It spawns eternal hope, dreams that for the majority of participants are cruelly dashed by a mistress who holds no sympathy or remorse, and special feeling that wells up inside you the week leading in to it, creating a warm fuzzy feeling no puppy is able to replicate.

To add to the pressure, it’s a Reserve Grade final.

The Reserve Grader is a special type of person. He plays the early game of a weekend, more pressure applied by his own teammates than his direct opponent. He finishes before 2, and then watches on as the Senior side do their business, making claims that he could do better if his knee wasn’t dodgy still.

But come finals, the Reserve Grader ditches the larrikin demeanour which he has boisterously carried through a long and arduous season. He suddenly starts talking about meal prepping, carb loading, “warm downs” whatever those are, all to achieve the ultimate glory, a Reserve Grade Premiership.

The journey begins here, and for the Animals, on a Saturday in Bundoora, on an oval just off the Ring Road.

Their opponents are a Manningham side whom they only fell 4 points shy of defeating just 3 weeks ago in conditions that can only be described as unplayable (Direct quote from 4 Animals Reserve players at Tuesday training following the game).

In a low scoring affair, the Cobras dressed in blue won 35-31, reversing a 20 point win the Animals recorded back in May at Bennettswood Reserve.

Now the season series is settled at a neutral venue, and it is the Animals who seek revenge.

Michael Mazzeo has been tossed the role of fullback, replacing long term Reserves player Fraser “G-Train” Walker, who has abandoned his fellow twos and become a Senior player. Dynamic swingman Darcy “Screech” Burke features, as well as current Reserves B&F Favourite James Rippon.

Through the middle, the Ginger chinned hard man Jason Schinck leads his midfield into battle on the vast Bundoora surrounds, with the classy Sean Howard looking to remind those who have slept on his talents just how dangerous he is.

Up front, the most dangerous man in Reserve Grade football, Tom Birkett, leads a forward line ready to score freely. Birkett kicked 48 goals in just 9 games in 2019, 12 more than his nearest foe. He’s joined by fellow goal kicking dynamo Jonathan Greensides, who despite playing only four games all year, has 13 majors to his name, and Zac Kearns, who’s exploits in the Seniors will be key to an Animals victory.

If successful, a date with a demoralised Aquinas or Richmond Central awaits in the second week of the finals, as well as the chance to etch their names alongside heroes of Animals past in making a Grand Final.

Ressies slip, Seniors shine

Ressies slip, Seniors shine

The scene couldn’t have been more set for a final-round showdown between Emmaus St Leo’s men’s teams and their opponents in Richmond Central on Saturday. With the sun shining down on Kevin Bartlett Reserve for most of the day, the Animals ran out onto the ground eager to finish their home and away seasons on a high, and properly cement themselves as finals contenders. 

With Max Hunt noticeably absent from rucking duties due to injury, it was down to Alex Stokes to take the reins for a majority of the game, and take the reins he did, earning himself best on for his efforts all over the ground. Jonathan Greensides kicked the only goal of the first quarter for the Animals, and his only goal for the game, after a 6-goal effort against Parkside the weekend before. It was another case of missed opportunities in the second quarter, with Emmaus St Leo’s going into the main break down by only 7 after kicking 1.6, though their defensive efforts kept Richmond to just one goal. 

Something must have been in Richmond’s halftime cordial, who came out in the third quarter with a point to prove, booting 4.4 and limiting the Animals to nothing. Despite staging a late fourth-quarter comeback, the reserves fell short on the scoreboard, with Richmond taking the four points by 13, 9.7.61 to 6.12.48.

Some wayward kicking on behalf of the Animals reserves allowed Richmond to get on top early, and inevitably stay on top for the whole game. Highlights of the day included 4 different goalkickers in the final term, with Tom Shannon and Reece Luehman kicking majors, and co-captain Steve Jones slotting his second of the day while Harry Wines’ efforts in the middle despite missing his partner in crime still provided plenty of spark for the reserves despite the loss. 

For the seniors, it was a different story. With nine individual goalkickers on the day, and a scoreline that had more majors than minors, it’s no wonder the Animals left the field winners. 

Richmond’s seniors team must have taken a leaf out of the reserves’ book when they came out firing in the first quarter, outscoring the Animals 6.5.41 to 4.1.25. The first goal for Emmaus St Leo’s came from Dan Hill, with movement on the wings that allowed him to run in and score. Paul Baranello followed up with his first of the day, off the back of hard, defensive pressure at the Animals’ non-scoring end. A chaos ball from Zac Kearns that landed deep in the forward line dribbled through for a goal. Somehow, the Animals still went into the first break 16 points down. 

But after what was no doubt a rousing speech from their coach, Emmaus St Leo’s kicked into gear in the second term, their fast ball movement allowing them to add five goals to Richmond’s two. Kearns, who marked on the 50, signalled for his team to slow it down, much to the amusement of everyone on the bench, and went back to slot his second of the day. Hugh Schaeche and captain Chris Beluszar joined the goalkicking party, as did Jesse Collins, who all sunk majors in the second quarter, giving their team the seven-point lead heading into the main break. The third quarter was much of the same, despite only three goals being kicked. Brent Simons kicked truly, with Baranello continuing his first quarter form, slotting two majors. 

Baranello starred for the seniors, which is a surprise to literally no one, as he wrote his own script by finding space and doubling his goal tally for the game in the fourth quarter. His last three majors were part of a 9-goal onslaught from the Animals in the final term of the home and away season that saw them run away winners by 77 points. To add salt to the wounds of their Richmond opponents, Emmaus St Leo’s kept them scoreless after the third quarter, who had only added 23 points since quarter time after they’d bounded out of the gates at the start of the game. Nathan Bird got the scoreboard reward for the efforts he’d been showing all game, as did Matt Hill. Dan Hill, Chris Beluszar and Jesse Collins also added to the scoreboard in the fourth, contributing to the forward half pressure that was prevalent through the final term. The Animals finished the game with five multiple-goal scorers, which serves them well leading into finals and speaks to the depth of their list. 

This weekend, Emmaus St Leo’s have both their men’s teams in finals, the reserves and seniors playing two separate teams on two separate days, but the same kind of snake. The reserves will be making the trek over to Garvey Oval on Saturday to take on the Manningham Cobras at 11:40am, while the seniors will play on Sunday against the Canterbury Cobras at Whitefriars College at 2pm. 

Animals hoping to avoid dumb luck in season finale

Animals hoping to avoid dumb luck in season finale

Lloyd Christmas once said “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” when confronted with a very unlikely scenario, however the Animals will be looking to extinguish any chances of an early Christmas miracle for either Westbourne or Canterbury when they travel to Burnley to finish the 2019 VAFA Division 3 Home and Away season.

The Animals have all but secured a Senior section finals spot, with the highly unlikely scenario of the Animals losing to Richmond Central, and Westbourne and Canterbury playing out a draw at Canterbury the only possible way to remove the Animals from their coveted finals position.

However, the Animals won’t be leaving anything to chance. 

Still bullish about their flag chances in both grades in 2019, Emmaus have named two incredibly strong sides for the final round of the season, with a senior debut also handed out to a club favourite.

In the reserves, Screech Burke, Jason Schinck, and co-Captain Steve Jones mark a host of quality returns as the Animals look to avenge their then shock loss at the start of the season to the Snakes.

That day, Richmond Central overcame an early deficit to run out 9 point winners at Bennettswood, a loss no one involved in has soon forgotten.

Jono Greensides kicked 2 that day, and is fresh off a 6 goal return last week to strike again at the vast expanses of Kevin Bartlett Reserve, apt for a man who rates himself as highly as KB does KB.

He’ll have sole possession of the Animals forward line with section goal kicking leader Tom Birkett resting before a crucial finals series. Birkett will end 2019 on 48 goals in 9 games played, just shy of averaging 7 snags an outing.

In the middle, Sean Howard, Harry Wines, and the returning Jason Schinck for a midfield to be feared by any side in the division, with elite running from Charlie Simpson and Zac Durrant to accompany them on the wings.

Screech Burke returns to the backline as well, after starring in his previous two outings at Canterbury and Manningham.

The Animals are locked in to 4th position in the Reserves, and a win could set up a potential rematch the following week, with Richmond Central only one game ahead of Manningham in 3rd.

In the Seniors, there’s more positive returns ahead of the final month, with Hugh Schaeche returning from a niggle to replace Harry Davis. Ray Kuhnell starts in the middle to combat a very contested Snakes side who love a hard ball get.

Down back, clubroom favourite Fraser “G-Train” Walker makes his senior debut for the Blue and the Blue, replacing Ben Collins who rests as well before the finals series.

Up front, Zac Kearns backs up for his second senior game, whilst Paul Baranello, Chris Beluszar, and Brent Simons represent a real danger for any defender in yellow and black.

A win will confirm 3rd spot for the Animals, a loss, and suddenly thoughts go towards “the chance”, however dumb it may seem.

Devils condemned by wayward Animals

Devils condemned by wayward Animals

It was a case of “Job done” for the Animals as they swept aside Parkside to end the year strongly at Bennettswood Reserve in 2019. 

The Animals had a much stronger year at home, going 4-3 in the Seniors, and 5-2 in the Reserves, compared to their 2-7 and 3-6 records in 2018, and secured their first over 500 record at home since the 2017 Seniors season which went 5-4.

The Reserves kicked the day off with a comprehensive dismantling of the Parkside reserves, running out 20.27.147 to 3.3.21 winners. Jono Greensides marked his return with 6 goals, whilst Tom Birkett consolidated his lead on the goalkicking list with 3 majors of his own.

Charlie Simpson was simply divine on the wing, at times toying with the Parkside lineup, spinning out of contests and roaming around the muddy terrain of Bennettswood like it was at it’s summer best.

He was complemented by Harry Wines, who once again held sway in the middle of the park, and continues to build confidence ahead of the finals.

Down back, the Animals held Parkside goalless for the first half, before leaking 5 scoring shots in the second, however the rebound 50 work of the Animals in tough conditions was the spark for multiple scoring chances throughout the contest.

In the final term, 100 gamer Tom Buick was able to snag just his second goal of 2019 late to ensure it was a to-script performance in his milestone match, finding acres of room on the Deakin side wing in the good grass for the majority of the match.

Combined, the Reserves defeated Parkside 38.38.266 to 4.6.30 over the two games in 2019.

In the Seniors, it was a much tighter affair to start the match, with Leo’s on holding a 2 point lead at the first change.

Wayward kicking was the feature of the day for the Animals, and increased accuracy will serve them better come September, but the challenging playing conditions meant that Leo’s found straight kicking at times an impossible task.

However a 6 goal spurt in the second combined by keeping Parkside to a solitary point saw the Animals stroll away to a 47 point lead and not look back.

Parkside would mount a respectable charge to start the third, and win the third term kicking 5 goals to 2 towards the Burwood Highway, but the Animals would pull away at the end. Zac Kearns would kick his first senior goal and regular contributors Chris Beluszar and Paul Baranello would also stroke home majors as the Seniors struck 15.28.118 to 9.7.61.

Animals finals battle no walk in the Parkside

Animals finals battle no walk in the Parkside

Three’s a crowd, especially when it comes to finals races.

The Animals Senior side is locked in a vicious threeway for two spots, and with only two weeks left in the 2019 VAFA Home and Away season, we’ve nearly arrived at the climax of the amateur footballing year.

For all three sides involved, winning is the only way to reach the finish line, and the first target in line is Parkside, where Emmaus started their Men’s season.

In what seems now at least two eternities ago, the Animals strolled into Alphington and delivered a solid performance which saw them run out 55 point winners at Pitcher Park.

That game was against a Parkside side who had just knocked off Richmond Central, and were riding the highs of making a splash post promotion. Since then however, it’s been less positive for the Red Devils. 

No wins since Mid-May, and fresh off two straight byes, it would be easy to believe the side from the other side of the Chandler Highway would be lacking some momentum, however that would be foolish of the Animals to do so, with their last 5 losses all by less than 5 goals.

The Animals senior side have made minimal changes to the side with lost to Manningham last week, the first game dropped since Leo’s themselves returned from the dreaded double bye.

Kieran Mair and Bailey Hunt are injected into the starting sides, with some rejigging of the magnets seeing Lawrence Virgo shift from Fullback to Full Forward.

A senior debut has been handed to Zac Kearns as well, who will start from the bench.

Seniors team.png

For the Reserves, the demons of a close loss to a solid Manningham side last week will look to be exercised when they take on Parkside’s Reserves, who’s record matches their Senior counterparts.

Last time, the Two’s flexed their muscles early, recording a 119-9 victory at Pitcher Park. Jonathan Greensides kicked 4 goals that day, and will make his return since May 11 from injury. 

But the big story of the day belongs to Tom Buick, who will run out on Past Players and True Blues Day for his 100th match in the Blue and the Blue. 

With the two’s finals spot confirmed, the chance to lock away crucial structures and systems before September hits will be look to be taken advantage of as the Animals run out on Bennettswood for one final time in 2019.