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The Casey Demons braved a tough afternoon in front of a hostile crowd and in mainly inclement weather to win a hard fought battle by 8 points against Essendon VFL at Stannards Stadium, Port Melbourne on Saturday to advance to their second grand final in three years. Over the course of the afternoon, players and spectators alike experienced sunshine, gloomy overcast skies, gusty winds and pouring rain; conditions that suited the Demons as their hard-bodied experienced relished the intensity of finals pressure. Casey went into the game with two changes that added to the team’s depth - experienced campaigners Bernie Vince (back from an AC joint issue) and Jay Kennedy Harris gave them a list of 12 current AFL players. They again left out Mitch King and went with an undersized ruck combination that served them well given the conditions despite being well beaten on the day in tap out numbers. The Demons opened strongly with Jeff Garlett’s mark and goal against the wind but the Bombers fought back as the lead seesawed for much of the opening term and Casey held the narrowest of leads at quarter time. The Bombers nudged in front immediately after the break but the Dees gained the ascendency to lead by 11 points after Mitch Gent’s goal at the 20 minute mark of the second term. The margin would have been greater but for poor kicking for goal. It was at that point that Essendon fought its way back into the game with two goals against the wind to allow them to go into the sheds at the half time break with the teams locked together at 39 points each. On the other side of the main break, with the rain pouring, it was the Bombers who took advantage of the wet weather conditions. They were quicker to the fall of the ball and manufactured two goals, one off the ground in the first minute and dominated the first 20 minutes of the term until Cam Pedersen stepped to turn the tide in as he has often done this season. With his team trailing by 13 points, having been led to the ball and outplayed on both sides of half time, Pedersen hauled in a huge mark in front and converted. Moments later, Garlett screwed one through over his shoulder and suddenly, it was game on again. A lapse at a boundary throw in gave the unattended Bomber ruckman a free shot a goal but that was cancelled out when Pedersen was freed in front of goal after an Essendon defender’s brain fade in running through a deliberate point. The margin was a solitary point in favour of the Bombers at the final break. With the wind at their backs, it was the experienced Demons who led the team home with their persistence and strong tackling. First it was Jimmy Munro who kicked truly just 37 seconds into the final term to restore the lead which Casey held onto for the remainder of the game. They pushed forward time after time, inspired by veteran Bernie Vince who finished with 22 possessions, 13 of them contested. Pedersen was indefatigable In the ruck against taller opponents and Munro, with 21 tackles to match his disposal count, was simply magnificent in the hard slog. Tom Bugg and Jay Kennedy Harris were strong while Joel Smith defended stoutly and his goal saving smother when the Bombers threatened was a highlight. The Wagner brothers, Corey and Josh belied their northern state origins and were important players and handled the ball well in the greasy conditions. Garlett booted his third as time on ticked by to give his team a game high lead of 14 points before a late Bomber goal saw the siren sound moments later with Casey home by a margin of eight points. Peter Jackson VFL Coach of the Year, Jade Rawlings worked hard to vindicate the decision of the selection committee and lead his charges into the VFL grand final next Sunday at Etihad Stadium. In his time as a player and coach, he has never experienced premiership success but if things go according to plan, that will all change in seven day’s time. Peter Jackson VFL 2018 Casey Demons 3.4 5.9 8.10.58 10.13.73 Essendon VFL 3.3 6.3.39 9.5.59 10.5.65 Goals Casey Demons Garlett 3 Pedersen 2 Gent Lefau Munro Vince C Wagner Essendon VFL Lazzaro 2 Clarke Draper Heppell Hind Hocking Merrett Stewart Younan Best Casey Demons C Wagner Munro Kennedy Harris Vince Bugg Garlett Essendon VFL Clarke Ridley Lazzaro Mutch Long Heppell Statistics Tomas Bugg 14 kicks 8 handballs 22 disposals 2 marks 9 tackles 98 dream team points William Collis 3 kicks 1 handball 4 disposals 1 mark 5 tackles 28 dream team points Tom Freeman 5 kicks 1 handball 6 disposals 2 marks 5 tackles 25 dream team points Jeffrey Garlett 3 goals 8 kicks 3 handballs 11 disposals 3 marks 1 tackles 62 dream team points Mitch Gent 1 goal 1 behind 10 kicks 3 handballs 13 disposals 3 marks 1 tackle 50 dream team points Jayden Hunt 12 kicks 2 handballs 14 disposals 2 marks 10 tackles 83 dream team points Jack Hutchins 2 tackles 9 dream team points Dion Johnstone 4 kick s 2 handballs 6 disposals 5 tackles 33 dream team points Declan Keilty 3 kicks 1 handball 4 disposals 2 tackles 19 dream team points Jay Kennedy Harris 1 behind 10 kicks 10 handballs 20 disposals 1 mark 11 tackles 94 dream team points Mykelti Lefau 1 goal 3 kicks 2 handballs 5 disposals 2 marks 6 tackles 9 hit outs 58 dream team points Jay Lockhart 2 behinds 9 kicks 7 handballs 16 disposals 1 mark 6 tackles 64 dream team points Cory Machaya 1 behind 4 kicks 7 handballs 11 disposals 1 mark 4 tackles 48 dream team points James Munro 1 goal 3 behinds 15 kicks 6 handballs 21 disposals 21 tackles 151 dream team points Cameron Pedersen 2 goals 6 kicks 5 handballs 11 disposals 5 marks 10 tackles 31 hit outs 121 dream team points Harry Petty 7 kicks 7 disposals 4 marks 3 tackles 33 dream team points Joel Smith 6 kicks 6 disposals 4 marks 8 tackles 62 dream team points Tim Smith 2 behinds 8 kicks 8 handballs 16 disposals 3 marks 4 tackles 8 hit outs 72 dream team points Cory Stockdale 4 kicks 1 handball 5 disposals 2 marks 1 tackle 21 dream team points Bernie Vince 1 goals 15 kicks 7 handballs 22 disposals 2 marks 2 tackles 76 dream team points Corey Wagner 1 goals 14 kicks 6 handballs 20 disposals 12 tackles 105 dream team points Josh Wagner 18 kicks 5 handballs 23 disposals 4 marks 5 tackles 92 dream team points Mitch White 10 kicks 2 handballs 12 disposals 2 marks 4 tackles 54 dream team points
As darkness fell over East Cranbourne early on Saturday evening, an already freezing day turned into a night of hell under lights for fourth placed Essendon at Casey Fields. The conditions at the ground were not helped by the wind chill factor from the strong gusts of cold air blowing in from Antarctic regions that tested players and spectators alike. In the end, they suited the home team which was on a mission after sitting out a week for the bye that followed two poor games on end. The Casey Demons were in top-eight survival mode and simply had to win the points on the night to remain in the finals race. The Bombers failed to score a goal against the wind in this game while half of Casey's majors were kicked at the non-scoring end and that was the simple reason why they won by the margin of 15 points. The start as always was going to be crucial especially with the Bombers opening with the aid of the strong breeze. It was wiry forward Bayley Fritsch who plucked a mark to convert for the first goal after a scrambly start five minutes into the game. The home side defended well to keep Essendon out and when they did finally break through, Mitch Gent was responsible for the quick reply so that they held the lead at the halfway mark of the term. Two quick goals from the Bombers gave them the ascendancy but strong defence from the Demons held them out until a late goal saw them 15 points in arrears at the first break. It took a lot of hard work to make up the deficit in the trying conditions and a succession of points flowed from missed opportunities before goals to Angus Scott and Cam Pedersen saw them nudge in front by a point by the time they welcomed the warmth of the sheds at half time. After the break, the Bombers booted an early goal before the inspired Demons unleashed a three goal blitz against the wind that turned the game on its head. Essendon was forced to spend most of the remainder of the term in catch up mode but it did manage to rein in the lead. However, a lead of four points at the last change was not going to be enough for the visitors who looked spent after exhausting much energy and knowing they had to confront a howling gale to win the game. The end came quickly and at the hands of Casey youngsters Bayley Fritsch and Aloysio Ferreira who made powerful statements with goals in the first eight minutes of the final stanza. Fritsch, already a state representative and the leading Casey goal kicker for the season, notched the first two and would no doubt be on the books of every AFL scout. The game then petered out in scrambly conditions but coach Justin Plapp would have been happy with pluck and the spirit of his charges. The team was well led by skipper Jack Hutchins and the experienced Jimmy Munro and the stout defence that kept a strong opponent to just three goals after quarter time. The Demons would be delighted by the return of Angus Brayshaw after a long time out with concerns over concussion injuries and rookie Corey Maynard continues to rack up possessions with his strong play. Ben Kennedy toiled hard and got plenty of the football, Josh Wagner was a consistent performer throughout and Declan Keilty was good, putting in one of his better performances of the season. The Demons are undefeated at home this year and they take on lowly Coburg at Casey Fields next Sunday in a game that looms as a vital one to win in order to retain their top-eight aspirations. Peter Jackson VFL 2017 Casey Demons 2.1.13 4.7.31 7.8.50 10.11.71 Essendon VFL 4.4.28 4.6.30 7.12.54 7.14.56 Goals Casey Demons Fritsch 3 Ferreira Pedersen 2 Gent Scott J Smith Essendon VFL Begley Francis Hind Hocking McKernan Merrett Stanton Best Fritsch Hutchins Maynard Munro Keilty Wagner Essendon VFL Mutch Merrett Howlett Hocking Bird Dea Statistics Angus Brayshaw 1 behind 17 kicks 8 handballs 25 disposals 5 marks 4 tackles 100 dream team points Dion Johnstone 7 kicks 7 handballs 14 disposals 2 marks 5 tackles 55 dream team points Declan Keilty 5 kicks 5 handballs 10 disposals 2 marks 2 tackles 39 dream team points Ben Kennedy 12 kicks 16 handballs 28 disposals 2 tackles 74 dream team points Mitch King 4 kicks 2 handballs 6 disposals 2 marks 8 hit outs 31 dream team points Corey Maynard 1 behind 9 kicks 21 handballs 30 disposals 3 marks 5 tackles 95 dream team points Cam Pedersen 2 goals 8 kicks 5 handballs 13 disposals 5 marks 5 tackles 78 dream team points Joel Smith 1 goal 2 kicks 8 handballs 10 disposals 3 marks 4 tackles 53 dream team points Jake Spencer 1 behind 6 kicks 4 handballs 10 disposals 4 tackles 22 hit outs 63 dream team points Billy Stretch 9 kicks 13 handballs 22 disposals 13 tackles 93 dream team points Josh Wagner 2 behinds 11 kicks 13 handballs 24 disposals 3 marks 9 tackles 106 dream team points Sam Weideman 3 kicks 11 handballs 14 disposals 1 mark 1 tackle 38 dream team points Mitch White 9 kicks 2 handballs 11 disposals 1 mark 3 tackles 43 dream team points The Demons are headed towards the finals in the last year of the Development League after winning by the same 15-point margin against the Northern Blues in the early game. AFL Vic Development League 2017 Casey Demons 3.3.21 3.5.23 6.10.46 7.12.54 Northern Blues 1.1.7 3.4.22 3.4.22 5.9.39 Goals Casey Demons Zijai 2 Briggs Cox Gardiner Hillard Lewis-Smith Northern Blues Jordan 4 Thorpe Best Casey Demons Gordon Lok Hulett Zijai Briggs Dan Johnston Northern Blues Bolger Ballard Jordan Thorpe Lentini Krithararis