Sunday 20th September 2015 is another date to write into the history books of the Springwood Football Club as it took out the 2015 QFA South Premiership to go back to back, in its 3rd straight Grand Final, for the first time in its 36 year history.

Much has changed since the ice breaker premiership of 2014 personnel wise with a number of the 2014 squad no longer representing the club. Some new faces (some of them returning old faces from years gone by) in this year’s line-up, Ross, McGill, Vasterink, Austin, Howse and Veneman all got their opportunity this year and didn’t disappoint. As is the case every year some very unlucky players to miss out on the big day, notably Robbie Jard who played just about every game and also Menzy, my U16 premiership skipper Nate, Will, AJ and no doubt a host of others. It is always a tough call picking the line-up to get the job done on the day, always has been and as long into the future as a footy is getting kicked around it always will be.

Other things had changed from last year too, notably the evenness of the competition. 2014 saw the Pumas only loss to Robina on a wet and dastardly day down the coast, this year there were 3 home and away losses (albeit by just a goal or less) and three wins by less than 4 goals, including the Semi Final. In this epic contest the good guys prevailed by less than a kick against yesterday’s opponents, the Coorparoo Kings, to advance to the big kahuna of games for the 3rd straight year. Apart from a couple of blowouts the average winning margins were well below that of 2014, the competition had really evened up this year. In 2014 there was a sense of inevitability about the result but not this year, this was different and the opposition were very, very good (with absolutely no disrespect to our 2014 opponents, Burleigh). They were, in fact, so good that no team had beaten them until that Semi Final a couple of weeks back, and they very nearly came home with a wet sailed and pinched that one. No doubt they would be super keen to make amends and show why they finished atop the ladder.

It was a much better day weather-wise on Sunday than it was on Saturday too. The wind was really up and about on Saturday but had tired itself out a bit come 2.00pm Sunday. It was still noticeable, and favouring the river end and still gusty at times but still better than the day before. A playing surface in elite condition and a big crowd set the scene for what promised to be an epic Grand Final. Skipper Thommo won the toss and fairly predictably, and correctly, chose to kick to the end favoured more so by the breeze, that being the one down to the river end.

As if winning the toss wasn’t quite enough it was Thommo who won the important first clearance from the opening bounce and the game was underway. A season of hard work, ups and downs, wins and losses and injuries came down to 120 minutes of footy. Who had the will to win, the skill to back it up and the game plan to set it all in motion? We were all pumped on the sidelines, ready to find out.

After a very nervy, very congested opening 6 minutes it was a day of firsts for the skipper as he got us on the scoreboard first, it was just a point but it gave us the lead nonetheless, and as it turned out a lead that would never be surpassed, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, still plenty to talk about before the bit that matters. Luke O’Shea was looking dangerous early getting in good spots, after his 9 goal haul in the Semi no doubt he was making the King’s bench very nervous. Thompson and Page were prominent early and Bear’s huge Sonny Bill Williams type hit sent shockwaves around the ground, great stuff.

It was hard going out in the middle, uncontested stats were hard to come by and both teams were missing some opportunities. Not unlike 2014 we were struggling to kick the ball through the 2 big ones and with the breeze this could prove costly. The breeze was tricky and with nerves added in there was a fair bit of turnover footy with plenty of missed targets and fumbles from both sides. There is nothing quite like Grand Final pressure to test out even the most basic of footy skills.

Finally, from another turnover, this time a missed Kings kick in that found Greg Friis near the boundary was duly converted 16 minutes in and we were away. This was to be the start of an extraordinary day for Friis, he was simply outstanding all day. There were doubts over Presto’s hammy since the Semi Final a couple of weeks ago but across half back he was moving freely and was very solid. Another Kings turnover at the 26 minute mark, this time a centering kick from the back pocket that missed its intended target found Zaine 40 out directly in front and he made no mistake. Fifteen points up was possibly not enough with the breeze but it was a start and we were right in the game.

The siren sounded soon after the goal and both teams made their way to their respective huddles with Springwood 2-5 leading the Kings 0-2. I haven’t followed Coorparoo’s progress that closely this year but I don’t think that there would be too many quarters during the season where they have failed to kick a goal so a great defensive effort by the Puma lads down back. I wasn’t sure at the break whether we had done enough with the breeze but the half time score would tell the story once Coorparoo had their turn with it.

There were no doubt some worried coaches in the Puma’s box after the first clearance went the King’s way followed by their opening goal two and a half minutes in. Matty Preston-Smith lifted again and kept them out and the Pumas, whilst not getting the momentum of the game, certainly were able to bring the game back to an even tussle and prevent any further scoreboard damage.

That first goal at the 2 minute mark was to be the only one for the term by either side. Just as Coorparoo were goal-less in the first we would be in the second. It certainly wasn’t a pretty game, it was heavily congested and there was pressure on nearly every kick. There were still plenty of turnovers due to pressure (and breezy conditions) and so it was difficult for either team to get any sort of run on. It certainly wasn’t the free flowing shootout that many had predicted pre-game.

I am sure too that we were on the verge of a world record tally for throw ins and ball ups, ruck rotations were fast and furious as it must have been tiring work. The umpires appeared to be letting it go a bit more too in this term, 14 free kicks in the first quarter (8-6 King’s way) and only 6 in the second (5-1 King’s way), not sure if that was on purpose but I think it helped the game a little bit.

Hayden Howse was starting to come into the game, as was Josh Brown, while Thommo, Matty and Greg Friis were still busy. Late in the term I felt as though Coorparoo were really starting to get into the game. The last ten minutes saw them really start to dominate possession and pepper the goals, fortunately for us they got no reward. I think when the Kings hierarchy look back over the tape they might pinpoint this period as the crucial one in defining the end result. In that last ten minutes or so the game was played virtually in their half and their return in that phase of play was 5 behinds. That meant that when the half time hooter went the Pumas still held a slender lead.

I believe that had the Kings gone in to the main break with a lead, any sort of lead, then I think psychologically that would have made a huge difference in how the teams approached the second half. When you work that hard for no result that can be a bit deflating, I am sure the coaching staff would have all been very positive but deep down they may have seen that as an opportunity gone begging. It was an amazing score line, only 3 goals for the whole game, and I haven’t seen that too often in a senior match on a dry day. Yes it was tight, it was congested and it was ugly but it was a fascinating contest.

I ducked into the Pumas sheds at half time to hear coach King’s words and as usual they were spot on. There was not even a hint of panic in his voice and I loved his words about expecting and relishing the contest that would come and being ready and up for the challenge when it came. He also spoke of composure (especially around the kick ins), decision making and work rate around the ground, especially at the contests. There was a great air of calm and confidence around the rooms, the feeling was that the game was going to the wire and we right up for the contest. Myself personally I thought the game would open up a bit in the second half, as tiredness became a factor and also as coaches start to take some risks with their structures to try to gain that advantage, especially late if its tight. I was expecting a different second half to the one just completed.

The game opened up 1 minute in. A Coorparoo clearance that was quickly turned over and a long kick inside fifty saw Friis mark strongly and convert. This was the start of a period of the game that, in my opinion, we set the game up and won it. It was 15 minutes of fast flowing Pumas footy that saw 4 unanswered goals and the game well and truly taken by the scruff of the neck. This was in contrast to the Kings last 10 minutes with the breeze and our first 15 minutes with it that I think was the difference between the two teams in the end.

And again, just my opinion, but I reckon it was all instigated by Greg Friis, he dominated this period of play early in the third. After that first goal he marked again and set up Luke O’Shea for his first, then made a strong tackle/turnover that found Thommo who in turn found O’Shea again for his second in a couple of minutes. The crowd had come alive and the footy had been awakened. Springwood’s pressure went up a notch, Friis was everywhere, Jacob King found some space and delivered to Howse who goaled and the margin was out to about 5 goals.

Desperate times for Coorparoo now and they had to find a way to get back into the contest and they did about 20 minutes in. Unfortunately a Puma turnover gifted them one and they kicked the first of the game to the change-rooms end, against the breeze. All of a sudden they lifted, even sitting on the sidelines you could sense it, they were running much harder and working harder around the ground. It’s funny how momentum goes in a game of footy, it doesn’t take much sometimes to get it back, just a little bit of luck sometimes. Now all of a sudden the blue and whites were spotting up running targets and hitting them and the Pumas space was shut down. There was much more urgency and enthusiasm in the King’s footy.

Zaine went down with what turns out to be a broken ankle and that didn’t help matters, he was proving a handful out wide with his run. Another Coorparoo goal at the 22 minute mark and it really was game back on. A 3 goal lead with the opposition coming home to the scoring end was a bit scary, we needed to score next before the siren. Finally one of the green men found it in his heart to give us a free kick (8-3 against us for the term) and it was to Jed King, straight in front 35 out. He nailed it and you could sense a great relief around the throng of Pumas fans around the ground (no doubt players and coaches too), we needed that. 7-12 to 3-9 at the last change, the door still very much ajar for the opposition coming home with the breeze and I am sure the last 10 minutes of the Semi Final (I think Coorparoo kicked the last 6 in 10 minutes to nearly pinch it) were firmly in the coaches’ and players’ minds, I am sure they knew there was still much hard work to do.

Could Coorparoo utilise the breeze better in the last quarter than they did in the second? That was the burning question. Also did they have the legs to finish? We had a week off so should we be fresher? They had a nail-biting tough game against Burleigh, would that make a difference? We were about to find out.

40 seconds. That’s all it took for Coorparoo to announce that they had plenty of footy left. A clearance and long goal and they were ecstatic, it was exactly what they needed and their confidence through that early goal must have lifted immensely. 4 minutes in and another goal to Coorparoo, that’s 4 of the last 5 now, through another costly turnover and it was all the Kings early. They were using the ball better, their game was a lot shorter and more precise and it was effective.

The Pumas needed something and we needed someone to step up, the lead was down to 15 points and with so much time left that was nothing. Step up Josh Brown. An errant King’s kick out on the full in front of the bar on the wing and then somehow we got a 50m penalty. It was on the other side of the ground so I didn’t see it but it got Brownie just close enough to slot it. It wasn’t an easy kick either, 40ish out and kicking into the teeth of the breeze. Phew, some breathing space.

Presto stood up again with a telling defensive grab, Sponno was lifting, Blake was giving his opponent absolutely nothing and Mitch Vasterink was tireless in the ruck up against a very good opponent. Friis was still killing it, Thommo was having a superb skipper’s game and Brownie and Rowan were in every contest. The Pumas had started to get some momentum back about half way through the term and it was starting to look to me as though Coorparoo had fired their last shot, and they didn’t have too much left. They had a couple of chances but missed (great defensive pressure again) and that proved costly as then end to end we went to King to O’Shea to McGill and a goal!! 23 minutes gone and 28 points up, back to pretty much where we were at ¾ time and the Kings had made no inroads into the lead. It was mighty tough for the Kings to get up from there.

I must admit I had a bad feeling when Jake McGill got the footy inside 50 and with absolutely no disrespect to him it looked like it could be a Ty Vickery moment all over again. He was running inside 50 with the footy, had a bloke over the top for a handball (just had to draw the fullback) or he could have run in further and closed the distance but he backed himself from 40 and nailed it. Vickery didn’t in almost identical circumstances and that was the difference between the two. Another phew moment because I thought there and then that was game over.

Coorparoo had other ideas though and that is why they have been such a strong footy team all year, they refused to just let the game drift out to an easy Pumas win, and they answered back immediately. 22 points up now, did they have 4 goals in about 6 minutes in them? I didn’t think so but I was still a bit anxious. For the next couple of minutes we were able to close the game up again and hang on and with every passing minute the game was more and more ours. Friis once again got on the end of a great grab from Vasterink and iced the game with the final goal, fitting really that Friis kicked it, he was sensational all day. That was 28 points with 27 minutes gone and the premiership was ours, a few late shots on goal were wayward but didn’t matter now and when the hooter finally went we were 31 points in front and back to back premiers!!!

As always there was great joy and great scenes immediately after the siren as the realisation set in that we had won it. Once again it was a great reward for all the hard work and effort put in by so many people, not only players but coaches, presidents, committee members, spouses, parents etc etc There was a great feeling of satisfaction post game, maybe not the unbridled joy of 2014, that one being the end of a long and at times painful drought, but satisfaction and joy all the same.

There were some great words spoken after the game, I particularly liked both Tony and Andrew’s glowing references to the Coorparoo Kings and what a great club and opposition they are and what a pleasure they are to play. This Grand Final was played in great spirits by two clubs both very respectful of each other. Sure it was tough, there were some collisions and big hits and no easy kicks given but it was all played well within the spirit of the game, the way it should be played.

So once again congratulations to everyone involved that was a well-deserved victory and a pleasure to be a part of, even if only in this small way of writing about it. Back to back premierships, well they are, according to a very astute person sitting near me, twice as hard to win as one. You could not argue against that.

I can’t wait for season 2016 now and to see what it brings. I know we have a few players that won’t be running around next year, Bear for one. What a champion bloke and for him to finish, given how much he does for the club, with 2 medals that is totally fitting, well done and much respect Bear. I’ve heard bits and pieces about others not going around again for one reason or another but in case there is nothing to those rumours I won’t mention them but to those guys if they do move on, thanks for all your efforts with our great club and good luck for the future. Personally I am looking forward to seeing our next crop of youngsters coming through. We got a glimpse of some of them this year. I think there were 5 or 6 Colts boys that got a run in the Seniors this year, so that’s great to see the developmental side of the club really starting to push through. I hope to see more of those boys up there more often next year.

So for the record the final score was Springwood 10-19-79 defeated Coorparoo 6-12-48

Goalkickers: Greg Friis 3, Luke O’Shea 2, Jake McGill ,  Jacob King 1, Zaine Pringle 1, Jed King 1, Hayden Howse 1.

Best Players: I’ll have a go and mind you these are just my opinion and I make no apologies for some bias:

Best on Ground medallist Greg Friis is a no brainer, Rowan Page (there’s that bias, having coached now 3 Page boys so yes he is my favourite), Matty Preston-Smith (bias again, youth coaches alliance), Mark Thomson, Mitch Vasterink, Josh Brown (Carlton supporter, so yes bias) and Jacob King. I am sure there are others that different eyes would have in their best and that’s fine, I apologize to anyone that I didn’t mention but could have/should have.

Go the Pumas!!!!

PREMIERS 2014, 2015