GIPPSLAND Power’s 2012 TAC Cup season ended in the worst possible way when it went down to the Oakleigh Chargers in the grand final by just one point.
After a sensational season where they led the elite competition in all of the important statistics, the Power boys went into the big game on a high after winning brilliantly against the Sandringham Dragons. That match has been called one of the best games in the 21-year history of the TAC Cup and set the Power up positively for the grand final.
Adding to the Power’s positivity was the fact that key forward Simon Deery returned after being unavailable for over a month due to a hamstring injury.
In ideal conditions at Etihad Stadium, both sides showed tremendous determination early as they struggled to get their games going due to the intense pressure being applied by both sides.
Importantly, it was the Chargers who steadied first and they had two goals after some sloppy manning up by the Power on the rebound. In contrast, the Power were struggling to use the ball effectively up forward and it took some excellent vision and skill by Daniel Jackson to set up Simon Deery for the Power’s first.
Will Hams then ran brilliantly and linked up with Deery to kick an inspirational goal and it seemed as if the Power’s nerve had been steadied.
The Chargers hit back late in the term but a long and direct forward thrust by Liam Nash found Tim Membrey, who marked courageously and put the Power to within a point at the first change.
Early in the first term, neither side could score before the Chargers broke the deadlock with a critical goal after seven minutes of tight play.Some fantastic vision and skill by Anthony Tipungwuti, Lachie Channing and Nick Graham set up Membrey for an important Power reply.
In the closing minutes of the quarter, the Chargers were more disciplined and scored three telling goals after some dodgy defending by the Power under intense pressure. The Power “gifted” the Chargers with goals due to decision making and skill errors that undid what had been a fine effort for much of the term.
Coach Nick Stevens strongly outlined what the Power had committed to do before the game and it came out with much more purpose and adherence to the team plan in the opening minutes of the third term.
Great mates Membrey and Graham combined to make a goal from nothing in the forward pocket and this seemed to inspire the boys to maintain the self-belief that has been a crucial element of their outstanding form all season.
Tipungwuti was at his inspirational best with another great run and he found Josh Scott who finished off his great work. Not to be outdone, Graham and Membrey then provided another stunning passage of play and Graham finished it off this time.
Against the run of play, the Chargers received a soft free kick and goaled to regain the lead. Some more soft defensive play by the Power gave them another major and it appeared as if they had the answers when it really mattered.
In the dying minutes of the quarter, Hams combined with Scott and they crafted a vital goal to get the Power to within eight points by the end of the term.
The game was now within the Power’s reach and it would have had a greater level of belief that it could come home strongly. The boys had dominated the final quarters all season due to their superior fitness and determination under pressure.
Jarryd Drew went long and direct from the opening bounce of the final quarter and Graham marked and goaled on the goal line. The Power went into attack again and Membrey used his strength to find Drew who snapped another for the Power.Just when it was looking good for the boys, some more defensive indecision gave the Chargers a crucial reply.
When leadership was needed, the Traralgon dynamic duo, Graham and Membrey, combined again and the Power had the lead with only minutes to go.
Some more great pressure by Tipungwuit created an opportunity for Jack Johnstone to go long and direct and once again Membrey was in the right place to kick a crucial goal that put the Power 12 points up. Some more fundamental errors by the Power allowed the Chargers hit back hard with two late majors to tie the scores and they then kicked a point to emerge victorious, 12.10 (84) to 12.9 (63), in what was a fantastic game by both sides.
Losing a grand final is always tough but to do so by one point when you led until the last seconds was devastating for the Power boys.
As the Chargers were presented with their premiership medallions Nick Stevens gathered his thoughts and spoke positively to the boys. He stressed his pride in their efforts all season and in this game in particular and asked them to focus on celebrating the many positives of the season as they got together back at the Traralgon social club after the game.
TAC Cup grand finals have set up several players with high AFL draft selection spots and Nick Graham used his opportunity to lead the way with a superb another team oriented performance. His statistics say plenty about his contribution with 25 plus disposals, eight marks and three goals.
Closer analysis shows Graham had 10 plus tackles as well and this has been the vital element of his game that he has developed with Nick Stevens encouragement throughout the season.All year Josh Cashman has taken on critical defensive roles when stemming the influence of important opposition forwards. Once again he did a great job in defeating his foe but was also able to win many possessions himself and then use them with great skill and vision to set up many positive passages of play as he ran and kicked long.
His Sale teammate, Wil Hams, was another to play a typically disciplined game on the ball as well as being at his hard-nosed best when being in the defensive area. He always plays as if he is 10cm taller and 10kg heavier than he truly is and rarely wastes the ball when using by hand or foot.
Captain Tim Membrey led by stellar example again with his uncanny ability to kick vital goals under pressure. Four grand final goals took his finals series tally to 16 goals in three games to set a standard of finishing rarely seen in TAC Cup levels.
Defender Jack Johnstone is another who has regularly taken on top opponents and has been victorious every week. He spoils effectively but is also able to win his own important possessions and then use long and direct kicks to set up scoring opportunities for others.
Johnstone was at his disciplined best yet again in the biggest game of the season.
Fellow defender, Aaron Heppell is another who has been relied upon to do important work as well as having the ability to win the ball himself.
The boys will come back together late in October when they will get together for their presentation evening at the Morwell RSL. It’s always an event that’s tinged with sadness as so many of the boys move on to the next stage of their football careers.
From the grand final side, Lachie Channing, Aaron Heppell, Jack Leslie, Liam Nash and Nate Paredes wil be back next season with a passion and understanding of what the TAC Cup is all about and they will have a further four youngsters who have played this season join them in the top-age group. Of these players three had senior experience with their clubs and two played in the Gippsland League grand final between Sale and Maffra, while one played for Garfield in their big game in the Ellinbank and District league.
A bonus for the 2013 side will be the chance for three or four of the 2102 players to come back to the side as 19-year-old boys who are deemed to be possible AFL players if given the chance to return next season. This system has been highly effective for the Power since the days of Tyson Goldasck and Simon Deery, Anthony Tipungwuti and Jack Johnstone have shown why the system is so important with their stunning contributions this year.