The Geelong Falcons have claimed their third TAC Cup premiership in remarkable circumstances with a two-point triumph over the Sandringham Dragons in Sunday night’s Grand Final at Etihad Stadium.
After leading by 30 points at three-quarter time, the Falcons were staring down the barrel of a heart-breaking defeat when Sandringham’s Joel Amartey took a mark close to goal with just seconds remaining in the match and his team three points behind.
However, Amartey’s shot after the siren missed to the right, ending his club’s bid for back-to-back flags and seeing Geelong win its first premiership since 2000 with the 13.11 (89) to 13.9 (87) result. The drama followed a similarly thrilling finish in the VFL Grand Final earlier in the day when Richmond lost by four points to Port Melbourne after also missing a post-siren shot at goal.
Earlier in the game, dynamic 177cm forward Gryan Miers put on a masterclass inside 50 for Geelong, kicking seven majors from 16 disposals in a performance that saw him end up with the TAC Medal for best-on-ground and a highlights reel featuring goals kicked in all kinds of ways from all kinds of angles.
In a match of dramatic momentum shifts, head coach Daniel O’Keefe’s Falcons set up victory with a scintillating third term in which they piled on eight majors to no score, stunning Sandringham after the Dragons had controlled the second term to lead by 20 points at half time.
Sam Walsh (29 disposals, seven inside-50s) and Cassidy Parish (27, six clearances) were constants ball-winners for the victors, while Cooper Stephens (14 disposals) provided valuable rebound from the back line and his co-captain James Worpel (14 disposals, six tackles) grunt in the contests.
For the Dragons, Kai Owens nearly became the match-winner with three of Sandringham’s four final-term goals, Bailey Smith (25 disposals, five rebound-50s) and Geordie Nagle (24 disposals, 10 marks) provided plenty of drive from defence, and Charlie Constable (23 disposals, five clearances) and Andrew Brayshaw (21 disposals, 10 tackles) were prime movers through the midfield.
Geelong’s intensity overwhelmed the Dragons in the game’s opening stages, resulting in two goals to Miers and one to Worpel within the first seven minutes. The Falcons had built a 19-point lead before the Dragons finally seemed to switch on.
But when they did, skipper Hayden McLean provided a strong marking target across the ground and the club’s 2016 premiership captain Hamish Brayshaw got moving around the stoppages, with both booting majors in a three-goal run that saw Sandringham go into quarter time just three points in arrears.
That momentum continued after the first break as Constable and Will Walker imposed themselves on the contest by kicking two majors each in Sandringham’s six-goal-to-two quarter.
Geelong emerged from half time a changed team though, Miers proving unstoppable with four majors in the third-quarter onslaught and fellow dangerous mobile forwards David Handley, Mitch Chafer and Lachlan Noble all also hitting the scoreboard.
Sure enough, the momentum changed guernseys again in the final stanza as the Dragons suddenly caught another wind. It took them as close as two points from the lead with eight minutes remaining but head coach Jeremy Barnard’s group couldn’t take its chances, only managing four goals and six behinds for the quarter to fall agonisingly short of glory.
— #TACCup (@TACCup) September 24, 2017
GEELONG FALCONS 3.4 5.7 13.9 13.11 (89)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 3.1 9.3 9.3 13.9 (87)
Geelong Falcons: Miers 7, Worpel, McCartin, Handley, Chafer, Garner, Noble
Sandringham Dragons: Owens 3, Constable 2, Walker 2, Trusler, McLean, H.Brayshaw, Amartey, M.King, Jarnestrom