St Mary’s became the first back-to-back Division 3 reserves premiers, overhauling a three-goal deficit to edge Banyule by seven points in the decider.
The game pitted both the 2016 and 2015 reserves premiers, with both sides dominating exchanges at different stages of the game.
However, the Burra had found themselves in front when it mattered most, winning 8.6 (54) to 7.5 (47) at the Whittlesea Showgrounds.
St Mary’s arguably had the better of the territory battle early on, but couldn’t find the goals, recording behinds through Robert Valente, Lachlan Potter and James Girolami.
Instead, it was Banyule hitting the scoreboard first, punishing the Burra with some excellent counter-attacking football through Max Post.
Joel Buckley was winning plenty of the footy for the Burra, who were also provided with great drive from Jarrod Bunker, while Ben Nethercote was one of the Bears’ better players early on.
The latter was rewarded with the Bears’ second goal, giving his side a nine-point cushion at quarter time.
The game shifted another gear in the second quarter, with St Mary’s continuing to win most of the ball.
For a period, it looked like the Bears would be resolute in defence, holding off many Burra advances, before giving away two 50m penalties to Buckley, who converted their first goal from the goal line.
The goal sparked St Mary’s, who went on to kick three more. Raygan Tate intercepted a handball to put the Burra in front, before Buckley kicked his second. Jordan Sorani then put through a brilliant goal from the boundary to extend the Burra lead to 16 points.
However, a much-needed steadier for Banyule came in the form of Mark Smith, who marked and goaled right on half-time to reduce the margin. Smith also came to the fore in the first minute of the second half, kicking two goals in two minutes of play.
Shaun McKenzie put them in front with a set shot from a similar spot to Smith’s second goal, before Post’s second goal – a gem from the same pocket as Sorani’s second quarter goal – extended the lead.
When Marc Centofanti added another from the goal square, the lead suddenly pushed out to a game-high 18 points. Much of Banyule’s work could be attributed to Jye Stevens, who had a brilliant third quarter, winning plenty of the ball through the middle.
Much like the second quarter though, the team under siege was able to fashion a late response, and it was Girolami for St Mary’s who converted a much-needed goal to reduce the margin to a two goals at the final change.
Girolami was the man for the occasion in the last quarter, kicking two more goals to single-handedly bring the Burra right back into the game. His work lifted his Burra teammates, who pushed for a winning goal.
Potter put through a behind to give them the lead with minutes to go, before a big mark and goal to Patrick Waldron gave the Burra a seven-point lead which they would not relinquish.
Bunker’s immense performance for the Burra saw him awarded with the best on ground medal while Girolami’s three goals were critical in the context of the game. Brandon Jones and Matthew Galiazzo were also big contributors for the Burra.
For the Bears, Sean Tanudtanud was arguably their best player, providing plenty of run through the middle, while Stevens, Nethercote and Post provided handy support acts.
Final scores: St Mary’s 8.6 (54) def Banyule 7.5 (47)