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18 September 2019
By Colin MacGillivray
For the first time in its history Harrow-Balmoral is a back-to-back football premier.
The club, formed by a merger of the Balmoral and Douglas-Harrow-Miga Lake football clubs in 1996, has been a Horsham District league powerhouse since its inception, but despite 12 grand final appearances and five premierships prior to 2019, it had never successfully defended a flag.
Until Saturday, that is.
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The Roos emphatically followed up last season’s 25-point defeat of Kalkee with a 20.16 (136) to 6.9 (45) drubbing of young upstart Noradjuha-Quantong on a clear spring day at Horsham City Oval.
While the final score reflected a lopsided game, it was anything but in the first half.
Harrow-Balmoral struck first, with the opening goal kicked by Simon Close after a few early misses.
Close and one of his brothers, former AFL-listed forward Michael, controlled the airwaves with a slew of marks, but the Roos couldn’t convert their dominance into scoreboard pressure.
Noradjuha-Quantong got going when Matt Walsh goaled after a strong contested mark, drawing a roar from the large Bombers contingent in the crowd.
Jye Walter gave the underdogs an unexpected lead a minute later when he crumbed the ball from a Cam Bruce marking contest and snapped a quick goal.
At the other end of the ground the Bombers’ backline was holding up under extreme pressure.
Although Jordan Huff, moved from his customary centre half forward position to play on Michael Close, conceded plenty of marks, Close did most of his damage a kick and a half from goal.
Teenager Josiah Mock surprised many in the crowd by winning a pair of one-on-one contests with league co-best and fairest and Roo coach Nick Pekin.
With two of its big guns kept momentarily quiet, Harrow-Balmoral found other scoring avenues.
Ed Ferguson was sent into an open goal by a superb blind handball from Pekin, who also set up James Staude minutes later to tie the scores.
Michael Close was denied his sixth mark of the quarter and a chance to put the Roos ahead just before the siren when the umpire judged a juggling attempt he trapped against his back as touched.
The Bombers, spurred by their success in the opening term, continued to bore in hard in the second.
Jason Kerr was nothing short of superb with his fearless attack on the ball, while Nathan Byrne, Ryan Stacey and captain Dustin Cross continued their strong finals series.
But the Roos began to slowly work their way on top, Will Plush and Eric Guthrie coming to the fore in the centre of the ground and Cody Deutscher breaking the lines as a high half forward.
Guthrie’s sharp ball use was telling, but the classy left-footer was unlucky late in the quarter when he was clearly taken high in a tackle but the umpire paid holding the ball instead.
Seb Relouw converted the resulting set shot to keep the Bombers in touch at half time, but it was clear that most of their energy had been spent.
The Roos put the game to bed with a nine-goals-to-none third quarter annihilation as James Staude, Guthrie, Michael Close, Plush, Pekin and Ferguson all hit the scoreboard.
The only intrigue left in the game by the last quarter was whether the margin would balloon to triple figures, but Walter’s second goal of the afternoon kept it to 91 points.
Guthrie was picked as best on ground after dominating during the third-quarter blitz, but there were winners all over the ground for the Roos.
Pekin hailed the commitment and focus of the players, not only in the seniors, but in the reserves, where the Roos claimed their first flag since 2014 with a 15.8 (98) to 5.11 (41) win against Natimuk United.
“I’m very proud, not only as a player but as a coach, to take these guys all the way through as premiers,” he said.
“We knew ‘Quanny’ was going to come out firing and they’ve got unreal midfielders, but they’ve had a tougher run through the finals series, so we had that up our sleeve.
“To their credit, the first half of footy was really well done and they should be proud of the way they played throughout the finals.
“Rosemary Langley, the president of our club, should feel really blessed and honoured because it starts from her.
“She looks after the whole footy and netball club and she’s done a wonderful job.”
Pekin said the core of the Roos’ group would return next year, with ‘three or four’ losses.
But, ominously, he expected their spots to be filled with ready-made replacements from the club’s under-17 ranks after the team won an 11.10 (76) to 3.7 (25) grand final against Laharum.
Noradjuha-Quantong coach Gareth Hose was measured after the loss, saying his young team had gained invaluable experience during its long finals campaign.
“We played three taxing finals in a row coming in, and we couldn’t go with them after half time,” he said.
“I’m extremely proud of what we’ve been able to achieve.
“If someone had said to me at the start of the year that we’d play in a grand final, I definitely would have taken it.
“I wasn’t sure our group was even at that point yet, so our improvement and development over the year was outstanding.
“It might have been our senior players who stood up and some of the younger guys got found out a bit, but you can’t buy that sort of experience and they’re all going to be better for it.”
• The only grand final not to feature the Roos was the under-14s, which was won by Swifts, 9.8 (62), against Taylors Lake, 4.6 (30).
The entire September 18, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!