This Sunday at Etihad Stadium marks the conclusion of the 2011 VFL Season. The Grand Final will be played by the two teams that finished top of the table in the home and away season – Port Melbourne and Williamstown.
Port Melbourne are looking to cap off a resoundingly successful 2011 campaign, where they have remained undefeated and rarely challenged. Last week when the Northern Bullants came hard at them, they were able to steady and cement their place in the Grand Final with a 22 point victory at TEAC Oval.
Williamstown have taken the finals by storm. Easily winning all their finals matches, enjoying a week’s break (their first of the entire year due to Foxtel Cup commitments) and welcoming back some big name AFL listed players. The Seagulls are hoping to add to the silverware in their cupboard this year after claiming the Foxtel Cup trophy, by sitting a VFL Premiership cup right alongside it.
*A major point to note is the crowds since I last reported on the VFL. Now I am not taking ANY credit for this whatsoever, but there has been a steady increase in attendances at VFL games. In fact, last Saturday’s game between Port Melbourne and the Northern Bullants not only had terrific support in person at TEAC Oval but also peaked at 96,000 viewers on the ABC on Saturday afternoon – the highest rating of the year!
So now, with the stage finally set and the second best competition in Australia about to crown a new premier (after the North Ballarat Roosters failed in their attempt to win 4 consecutive VFL premierships), it’s about time to have a look at the match ahead, who is playing, who will win and why it is important.
The Port Melbourne Borroughs are a terrific story of success. They are one of the only remaining “stand alone” VFL clubs, meaning they have no AFL-aligned club. Whilst one would look at this as a disadvantage, the fact that the Borrough have played consistently with a similar side all year suggests that the stability and structure of knowing your squad each and every week is quite an asset. Having been around the mark for the past 3 or 4 years, this looms as the year Port Melbourne are able to capture it all. Having not lost a game all year and having no real injury concerns, they are going to be a tough side to beat. From the league’s leading goal kicker Patrick Rose up forward, back to back JJ Liston Trophy winner Shane Valenti in the middle and Gary Ayers at the helm, they would be very comfortable heading in to this weekend.
Williamstown on the other hand are an AFL aligned club. Their AFL counterparts are the Western Bulldogs and through proper list and player management throughout the season, the Seagulls have quite a vast number of AFL listed players available for the weekend. competing in the Foxtel Cup may have been seen as a hindrance as they were unable to take any week’s off during the VFL season, but it also appears that it has been of benefit with a lot of players gaining valuable game time and experience on the big stage. Add to that the number of Western Bulldog injuries throughout the year and some of the youthful players have been involved in some very high quality footy throughout the year. Williamstown only lost 4 games all year, 2 at the hands of last year’s premier North Ballarat and 2 to the undefeated Port Melbourne. Throughout the VFL finals though, they have been superb by foot with players such as Lindsay Gilbee rarely missing a target and Will Minson dominating not only the ruck contests but around the ground also.
Finally, after looking at the match-ups, the team lists and past form (Williamstown hold a 4-1 advantage over Port Melbourne in finals) I am going to make a brave prediction. Unfortunately for Port Melbourne, their undefeated season will come to an end and they will taste their first loss in the VFL Grand Final. I think current form, and the players on the park for Williamstown will see them run home in a tight and tough encounter by 17 points.
*Get down to Etihad Stadium on Sunday to watch a first class game of football. Details at www.vfl.com.au