By Matt Fotia
Boxing. It’s commonplace nowadays for anyone who is looking to get fit, lose weight, gain muscle or just vent their frustrations. And for the 21 players who left the Yarra Glen Football Ground as Seville Premiership players, boxing is all of that and more.
After Yarra Junction ran the Blues ragged during the 2018 Finals Series and ultimately smashed them in last seasons Grand Final, Kane Shore and his crew knew what they had to do – improve their depth, but more importantly improve their fitness.
To do the latter, they boxed. Two to three times a week during the pre-season and during the season. Some players still box outside of offical training time.
Now, 12 months down the line, the Blues have run over the top of the Eagles in consecutive meetings, overturning a three quarter deficit in the second semi final at Healesville to make the Grand Final a fortnight ago, before going on to kick 15 goals to four after halftime in the big dance to finally get their hands on the trophy.
With the sun shining for what seemed the first time in weeks, the Eagles were able to harass the Blues in early stages and grabbed the first two goals of the game through the high marking Cameron Spaulding and David Johnson, with their quick fire handball cutting the Blues open in the early stages, before steadying goals from Josh Fraser and Nathan O’Keefe bought the game back to parity.
The Blues classier players – Myers, Dickinson plus Gareth and Jesse Fraser – started to get involved in early stages of the second quarter, and as they did so the Blues threatened to take the game away from Yarra Junction, whose back six were struggling to hold down the fort.
But the Eagles are known for their bursts of brilliance, and they produced a scintillating eight minute period – started once again by David Johnson – which saw them kick five in a row, and take a slim seven point lead in the main break.
Yet again the Blues looked the better side in the early stages of the third quarter, as they continued to dominate the clearances despite Junction’s Troy Armstrong leading the hit out count comfortably. Skipper Nathan O’Keefe – who had been well held to this point by Dylan Brookes – was the main beneficiary of some fine work from Jesse Fraser and a like and kicked three in ten minutes as the Blues began edge away from their rivals.
When Gareth Fraser burst out of the centre bounce, steadied and kicked Seville’s 14th goal, the floodgates seemed to have opened, with the Eagles players helpless in their attempts to stop the Seville players from marking, kicking and ultimately goaling.
But true to form, the game threw up another momentum swing, as another David Johnson goal kickstarted a mini Junction revival, as the courageous number one once again threw his body around with no regard for his own safety, marked at close range and goaled, before giving one of the more powerful fist pumps ever witnessed, starting from below his hip and finishing well above his head, the shoulder almost popping out of the socket.
Trailing by 16 points at the final turn, Yarra Junction would’ve been banking on two things. The momentum they had garnered from the final stages of the third quarter, but also the mental demons that could still haunt the Blues, who had fallen at this hurdle many times before.
And when Kane Davis marked and then kicked truly following three Seville behinds, the Eagles faithful could’ve been forgiven for daring to dream, as the margin came back within two kicks.
This Seville outfit is a different outfit however. Let us not forget their boxing, their extra fitness. The 2018 version of the Blues may have lay down, but not the 2019 version.
Seven tense minutes followed the Davis goal, as Seville shot at goal and missed, desperate to land a jab or uppercut, to get the Eagles back against the ropes. They found that punch when Mark Cecere sharked the ball from a pack and hooked the ball over his shoulder from 30 metres out, straight through the middle.
With their opponents now at their mercy, the Blues went ballistic, landing blows left, right and centre.
Speedster Dylan Broadway slipped a tackle in the goal square to kick the next one, before goose stepping his way past a Junction defender to kick the following one.
Skipper Nathan O’Keefe booted his fifth goal moments later, before Cecere, the man who started the last quarter onslaught, landed the killer blow, exiting the centre square, winding back his powerful left leg and etching the Seville name on the premiership trophy with a high left foot drop punt from outside the arc.
Party time ensued, as O’Keefe booted three more – bringing his tally to eight – as Blues fans soaked up their well earned moment in the sun, both literally and figuratively.
Wingman Jesse Fraser was named Best on Ground after racking up countless possessions as he continually found pockets of space, opened the game up with decisive disposal and booted two goals.
Speaking after the game, the number 35 spoke about taking his chances and what it means for a large percentage of the playing group.
“I got lucky that no one manned me up and the ball just bounced my way, but you take it when it comes,”
“I’ve just been trying to work as hard as I can at training all year to get the best results out of myself on the weekend.”
“A lot of the boys at this club have lost a lot, so it’s really nice to get a good win for them.”
Fraser now has the pleasure of winning premiership alongside his sibling Gareth, who returned to Blues for the second half of the season, after a false start at Eastern Football League outfit Lilydale.
Playing alongside his brother was the driver for Gareth’s return, and he believes his brother was a deserving winner of the medal, despite a pretty strong showing from a few others.
“I had plans to go to Lilydale and play really good football, but at the end of the day I wanted to play with my brother and he finally came to Seville this year, so I made the move back,”
“He did well, really well, he’s been playing his role really well recently and well Cooney (Nathan O’Keefe) is probably a bit stiff, but yeah – Jesse deserves it immensely.”
Seville 2.4, 8.7, 14.9, 23.14 (152)
Yarra Junction 3.4, 9.8, 11.11, 13.12 (90)
N. O’Keefe 8, D. Broadway 3, Josh Fraser 3, M. Cecere 2, Jesse Fraser 2, C. Glass 2,
S. McDonnell 1, G. Fraser 1, J. Myers 1
Yarra Junction :
D. Johnson 4, C. Spaulding 3, E. Wadsworth 1, A. Chandler 1, T. Wheeler 1, J. Bombinski 1,
K. Davis 1, C. Hoare 1
Jesse Fraser*, N. O’Keefe, P. Bailey, J. Myers, C. Suban, A. Wind
Yarra Junction :
D. Johnson, E. Wadsworth, J. Bombinski, J. Hammen, C. Spaulding, D. Brookes
*Denotes Best on Ground Medalist