Originally written by BRIAN GUY
WOORNDOO-MORTLAKE came back from the dead to defeat Caramut in Saturday’s preliminary final at the picturesque Penshurst ground.
Victory has given the Tigers a ticket to Tatyoon where it will clash with Wickliffe-Lake Bolac in the league’s grand final.
A large crowd paid $6923 at the gate on Saturday and witnessed a typical finals clash with players from both teams showing plenty of aggression.
Caramut jumped out of the blocks in the first quarter and handled the ball much better than its opponents in the windy conditions.
Wingman Joe Chatfield and mid-fielders Wayne Aitken and Shannon Collyer were all getting possessions and Robert Mann was doing an admirable job in the ruck.
Tigers’ man-mountain, John Fitzpatrick, was loose in defence and stopped many Caramut forward thrusts and if it was not for his efforts the two-goal deficit at the first break would have been much larger.
The second quarter belonged to Woorndoo-Mortlake. The Tigers started to adapt to the conditions and played a better brand of football.
Its star forward, Ryan Cameron, who finished with four goals for the day, started to take some big grabs and ruckman Rhys Millward stepped up a notch or two and won some important ruck duels.
Joe Chatfield continued to dominate on his wing and Michael Soulsby’s delivery to team-mates was as usual first class.
Defender Mark Matthews, who appeared to be nursing some sore ribs, was solid as a rock, but his team-mates were starting to fumble the ball and the half-time siren came just in time as the Tigers were starting to dominate.
The game was still in the balance with Woorndoo-Mortlake leading by four points but it should have been much more but for inaccurate kicking for goal.
Once again the game turned Caramut’s way in the third term when it kicked three majors to nil.
Versatile Mark Edwards booted two team lifting goals and Tim Chatfield was starting to get into the game.
But, unfortunately, the league’s leading goal kicker missed an absolute sitter 10 metres out which is not good enough for a player of his calibre.
Caramut was dealt a big blow when ruckman Robert Mann ‘cleaned up’ one of his team-mates, Michael Soulsby, with an accidental shirt front.
Soulsby had to leave the ground with a gash to his nose and did not come back till midway through the last quarter.
Caramut had a handy 14-point lead at the last change and the crowd was anticipating an exciting climax to the game and that’s exactly what happened.
Caramut coach Wayne Aitken, kicked the opening goal to put his side 20-points up, but after that the quarter belonged to the Tigers.
Woorndoo-Mortlake kicked six of the next seven goals and took control all over the ground.
Adam Lehmann and Ryan Cameron were marking everything that came their way and mid-fielders Matthew Bourchier and Joseph Hill started to get on top and when a team gets a “run on” it is nearly impossible to stop.
It was an amazing quarter as Woorndoo-Mortlake looked to have no hope of victory early in the term, but to its credit, never stopped trying.
In fact, some of the big crowd started to leave midway through the last quarter thinking Caramut had the game won.
One must feel sorry for Caramut as it controlled the game for long periods and the players looked shattered when leaving the ground and heading for a well earned shower.
Woorndoo-Mortlake showed incredible grit and it was its persistence that eventually got it over the line.
Joint coaches Adam and Jason Lehmann were absolutely jubilant when the final siren went and team-mates embraced each other knowing the club is now in a grand final.
Caramut coach Wayne Aitken and captain Nick Hassett must be bitterly disappointed missing out on a grand final berth, but they must be commended for their efforts on Saturday, as they were both among Caramut’s better players.
Woorndoo-Mortlake takes on premiership favorite Wickliffe-Lake Bolac in next Saturday’s grand final at Tatyoon.
The clash promises to be a “blockbuster” and Mininera and District league officials are expecting a record crowd.
The reserves game will be between Lismore-Derrinallum and Wickliffe-Lake Bolac.
The under-16 clash is Penshurst against Tatyoon with gates opening at 8am.