North Footscray was forced to revert to a plan B to overcome a stern challenge from Yarraville-Seddon Eagles in the Western Region Football League division 2 elimination final at Hogans Road Reserve on Sunday.
Trailing by three goals at three-quarter-time and with only one bench rotation available, Devils co-coach Matt Walsh decided to shake up his line-up for a do-or-die final 30 minutes.
The moves came off and the Devils dominated the last quarter to run out 14-point victors and set up a tasty preliminary final date with arch-rivals West Footscray at Hogans Road on Saturday.
“We threw caution into the wind, made a couple of positional changes in the last quarter and it worked in our favour,” Walsh told Star Weekly. “To run over them at the end was really pleasing.”
Walsh was most pleased about his players’ mental application.
The Devils could have easily put this one in the too-hard basket when injuries hit Lucas Hall (ribs) and Ryan Murphy (hamstring) and the Eagles began to stretch their lead.
But they fought it out and reaped the rewards.
“It really showed the character of our guys,” Walsh said. “The ball spent a lot of time in our forward half in the last quarter and when you’ve got that much control in the last quarter, you’re going to create enough opportunities.”
Josh Van Den Berg was outstanding for the Devils, running on adrenalin as he rucked the whole final term unchanged.
Tyson Bock took a number of telling marks in attack, Matt Bellingham was the rock of the defence and Andy Cunningham booted two crucial last-quarter goals.
“It was a gritty team effort,” he said. “It’s great to see the flashy stuff, but it was the contested footy where we got on top.”
So it’s North v West for the right to meet Wyndhamvale Falcons in the grand final on September 6.
With a six-day break between games for North Footscray, Walsh had the players focused on their next task immediately after the win over the Eagles.
“We went to the beach straight after the game today to make sure they get their bodies right,” he said.
“We haven’t beaten West Footscray this year but you only have to beat them once in a finals series. Pull that off and you’re in a grand final.”
West Footscray has the benefit of a seven-day break and needs it after their lacklustre second half showing in a 62-point semi-final loss to Wyndhamvale on Saturday.