Hill End defied all odds to come from behind to beat Mirboo North in a classic preliminary final on Saturday before a record crowd at Newborough. Hill End were down at one stage by 27 points before a creditable fightback earned them a Grand Final berth next Saturday. It was a tough match with the lead changing many times throughout the match with scores level at the first break then Mirboo North kicked away in the second term with Chris Berchtold taking the lead with two strong goals, further goals to Blackford, Peters and Fulton blew the game apart but then Hill End rallied led by Ambu Uliando and Jack Hudson were able to get back within 15 points after goals to Luke Mulqueen and Dane Fawcett. Josh Taylor, in the pivot was being out muscled by Rob Fiddelaers but Mirboo North had great defenders in Damien Blackford and Jordan Cargill who was keeping Chase Saunders down to a handful of kicks. By half time it was still an open game with Mirboo North leading by 15 points. Hill End were gaining plenty of possession but made bad errors of judgement giving the ball up easily, looking for the easy option. Dylan Keyhoe already with three goals on the pad dribbled through his fourth to put Hill End closer but Chris Berchtold replied with his third as teams traded goal for goal. Big Justin Fulton had the edge over his opponent Calvin Rees but both were important cogs for their teams. Mirboo North stretched out to a 27 point lead midway through the term and were looking to hold on but Hill End wouldn’t give up, Chase Saunders was felled and his resulting kick saw his second goal and when Dylan Keyhoe was felled, given a 50 metre penalty and goaled for his fourth it was game on as Hill End got to within nine points by three quarter time.
Mirboo North still led at the 12 minute mark of the last but they weren’t making any impact on the scoreboard and every point posted by Hill End was worth gold, Chase Saunders missed two and Aaron Fawcett hit the post which brought it back to a six point ball game. Ben Rotheram known to kick goals, posted one from 50 out to level the scores at 19 minutes. It was pressure all round and the strain started to show as players made mistakes, two more behinds for Hill End got them the lead and Dane Fawcett goaled to give them an eight point advantage. Hill End were doing all the attacking shutting down Mirboo North, a further two behinds saw the Grovers out to 10 points and when the siren sounded it was Hill End 13-7 to Mirboo North 11-9 to now go into their first Grand Final since 1982. Ambu Uliando, Jack Hudson, Dillon Clark and Rob Fiddelaers all were mentioned as best players but they got great support from the rest of the squad. For Mirboo North they battled hard but in the end couldn’t keep up the momentum as Hill End wore them down, best were Julian Blackford, Peter Taylor, Mitch Wightman and Damien Turner.Laurie Williams
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Match review written by Laurie Williams.