How much does Altona have left in the tank this Western Region Football League division 1 finals series?
The Vikings are on the canvas taking a standing eight count. One, two, three …
You just know that Altona has the spirit to get up and challenge Hoppers Crossing in this Saturday’s preliminary final at Burbank Oval.
However, the Vikings are bruised and battered.
If losing star forward Mitch Turnbull was not hard enough, the Vikings lost two prime movers in the midfield in Brett Shiels and Jack Marlais for the rest of the finals in a hellish first quarter of Saturday’s 53-point loss to Deer Park at Avalon Airport Oval. Shiels may have torn an ACL, while Marlais did his shoulder.
Entering the finals as the top ranked side, a full strength Altona represented the best chance of bringing Deer Park’s premiership streak to an end.
The Vikings are still there, they are still fighting tooth and nail, but the injuries will undoubtedly have an impact.
Vikings coach Saade Ghazi will find a way to inspire his players but even he conceded it was a bitter opening to the finals for his club.
“It was a tough day for the footy club,” he said. “We obviously had three losses [in the senior grades], but we get to fight another day.”
For three quarters, Altona was there and in the fight against Deer Park on Saturday.
The Vikings actually led by 22 points in the first quarter and did not seem to be unsettled by the Shiels and Marlais injuries.
But Deer Park slowly took control for a nine-point lead into three-quarter time.
Down two rotations, Altona came to a grinding halt, conceding all seven goals kicked in the last quarter.
“Having two running players off in the first quarter of the game, it probably didn’t hurt us much in the first half, but as the game wore on, it really restricted our rotations,” Ghazi said.
“The guys really got tired by the end of it all,” Ghazi said.
“I’m not making excuses, but it didn’t help.”
There were plenty of positives for Altona.
Youngsters Cooper Page and Ethan Taylor showed promise in their first senior finals.
For his work as a rebounding defender, Page was named Altona’s best, while Taylor’s energy on the wing was infectious.
Josh MacDonald produced a powerful showing on a half-forward flank, capping a stellar game with two goals.
Lee Spiteri was a four-quarter performer in the midfield, while Joel Magnabosco and Tom Szanyi worked hard across half-back and Luke Goetz battled hard in the ruck.
Spearhead Patrick Rose kicked two goals, but he would need to double for Altona to win this weekend.
Beware the wounded Viking because there is no way Ghazi will accept a straight sets exit.
“There were a couple of boys down and they know who they were,” he said.
“They’ve got another opportunity because luckily we don’t finish on that note.”
Yarraville Seddon Eagles will meet Point Cook in the division 2 grand final at Avalon Airport Oval on Sunday. The Bulldogs earned their spot after a savage 83-point win over Parkside at the Whitten Oval on Saturday.
Point Cook Centrals and Wyndham Suns will fight it out for the division 3 premiership at Avalon Airport Oval on Saturday.