Photo credit: Field of View Sports Photography
By: Daniel Cencic
FAIRPARK ended its 24-year premiership drought on Sunday afternoon, defeating East Burwood by 15 points to claim the Division 4 flag at Scoresby Recreation Reserve.
The 7.7 (49) to 4.10 (34) premiership victory is the Lions’ first since 1995, led by a best on ground performance from Ronnie McKendry who booted three majors in a low-scoring affair to claim the Colin Tainton Blue Ribbon Medal.
🏆 Fairpark wins its first senior premiership since 1995, defeating East Burwood by 15 points in the #EFLDIV4 GF. Ronnie McKendry wins the Colin Tainton Blue Ribbon Medal for best afield with three goals. Captain Jesse Pearce and coach Sean Stanton hold the cup aloft: pic.twitter.com/mOddYPXLP2
— Dan (@DC_EFL) September 8, 2019
With just two majors kicked through Davis and Handreck in the opening 20 minutes, the Rams took an early advantage to lead by 14 points ticking into time-on, before the Lions hit back late in the term as Fabrizio found McKendry who converted from point-blank range to narrow the gap to just seven points at quarter time.
The arm-wrestle in heavy rain continued into the second term as the sides traded goals through McKendry and Matt Mariani, before McKendry struck again, registering his third major at the 28-minute mark, courtesy of a James Gough palm-down from a stoppage which the Colin Tainton Blue Ribbon medallist read beautifully.
The stage was set for the premiership quarter with East Burwood holding a slender three-point lead at the main break, but in an extraordinary turn of events, an horrific ankle injury to Fairpark ruckman Kyle Hird less than five minutes into the third term saw play halted for close to 40 minutes, as both sides exited the arena.
With the Rams holding a one-point lead, play resumed as the minor premier peppered the scoring opportunities, registering 0.4 to close out the term which ticked just over 57 minutes as East Burwood clinged to a five-point advantage at the final change.
The cup looked headed to East Burwood Reserve for the first time in 19 years when Barlow kicked a miracle goal from the acutest of angles six minutes into the final term to stretch the margin to 11 points in a low-scoring contest, however the Lions had other ideas.
Enter Efstratios Doulgeris, who unloaded from outside 45 metres a minute later to draw his side back to within five, and, moments later when Colosimo launched a long ball towards full forward looking for Gough, the big-man took full advantage of a holding free in the square to put his side in front by a point, 12 minutes in.
With the momentum heavily in favour of the Lions and stoppages aplenty, the 24-year wait for silverware at Fairpark looked all but over when Dadswell marked inside 50, breaking the deadlock with a goal to seal the victory as the margin opened up to nine points deep into time-on.
The Lions however had one final trick left as Gough emerged in the ruck yet again, swooping on a loose ball from a throw-in deep in attack, snapping his second to put the end result beyond doubt, delivering a fairy-tale finish to 2019 for Fairpark.
Victorious coach Sean Stanton spoke to EFL Game-Day immediately following the final siren.
“It was an amazing effort in that last quarter, they dug deep,” Stanton said.
“We had one (player) down and to their credit they never gave in – they fought and fought and fought and got their just-reward.
“We had our work cut out for us going into the last term but they were super-brave and super-competitive and gave their all to the end.”
Stanton also credited his side’s fast finish in part to McKendry’s move into the midfield.
“I thought we were a bit slow there and he gave us a bit of spark – he got his hands on it and he got some deep forward entries for us and as a result, we hit the scoreboard,” he said.
Fairpark 1.2 3.3 3.5 7.7 (49)
East Burwood 2.2 3.6 3.10 4.10 (34)
Fairpark: R. McKendry 3, J. Gough 2, E. Doulgeris, B. Dadswell
East Burwood: S. Davis, M. Mariani, B. Barlow, B. Handreck
Fairpark: B. Dadswell, J. Gough, R. McKendry, E. Doulgeris, N. Cowan, S. Mercer
East Burwood: J. Kennedy, M. Wills, E. Rixton, M. Mariani, L. Gould, B. Kay
Colin Tainton Blue Ribbon Medal: Ronnie McKendry (Fairpark)