Grand final awaits the mighty Seagulls
(Players celebrate a Joel Ottavi goal in the preliminary final win over Essendon. Photo by Martin Keep).
Williamstown is into its first grand final since 2015 after an imposing 26-point win against Essendon in Sunday’s preliminary final.
Despite having made the penultimate final every season since 2010, the Seagulls have failed to book their spot in the big dance since their ’15 premiership.
A strong start was needed to shake their prelim hoodoo, and that is exactly what the team delivered.
After Mark Baguley booted the opening goal of the game for Essendon, Williamstown proceeded to kick a spellbinding six unanswered goals - including two to forward Nick Ebinger who finished the game with five majors – to open up a 29-point quarter time lead.
The second term saw a shift in momentum towards Essendon, but Ebinger’s third nine minutes in sent an ominous sign when the margin exceeded five goals.
The Bombers were able to pepper the inside 50s and sent a challenge when Houlahan and Jok kicked back-to-back goals, before Billy Myers put through a steadier.
The free-flowing affair continued with the Bombers kicking two more majors in as many minutes.
A goal-of-the-year worthy Myers dribble from the boundary sent raptures amongst the Seagulls fans, before a responding goal to the Bombers after the siren meant 16 points was all that was separating the two sides at the main break.
But Essendon’s second quarter challenge caused hardly a ripple.
Myers and Ottavi each opened the third term with goals, and belief started to grow amongst supporters that a grand final berth was well within reach.
Mitch Hibberd (27 touches and four tackles) and Willie Wheeler (21 touches and one goal) led Williamstown’s premier midfield, while Jason Pongracic and Nick Mellington’s pressure – laying 10 and nine tackles respectively - was immense.
Team of the year ruckman Nick Meese obliterated the ruck contests, finishing the day with an outstanding 70 hit outs, to go with a handy 24 disposals.
Williamstown headed into the last quarter with a 31-point lead, but didn’t take their foot off the pedal until the final siren.
A euphoric sigh of relief fell across the Williamstown bench when the siren sounded to confirm their place in the big dance.
The Seagulls’ team-first mentality shone through, and no doubt will hold them in great stead heading into the last game of the season.
The 2019 Hard Yakka / Totally Workwear VFL Grand Final between Williamstown and Richmond will take place this Sunday, September 22 at Ikon Park (Carlton), with a start time of 2:15pm.
The game will be broadcast live on Channel 7, with radio coverage on SEN 1116, Casey Radio and ABC.
Williamstown 6.3 9.6 12.12 14.12 (96)
Essendon 1.4 6.8 7.11 9.16 (70)
Ebinger 5, Myers 4, Ottavi 2, Wheeler, Greiser, Mellington 1