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.