Airport West has claimed the Essendon District Football League division 1 premiership, despite a barnstorming third quarter comeback from Tullamarine.
At half-time of the grand final on Saturday the premiership looked like it was heading to Hansen Reserve with Airport West, after it dominated the first half.
Airport West found multiple options up forward and the Demons had no answers.
When the Eagles kicked the first goal of the third quarter to extend the margin to 53 points, it appeared the second half would be a repeat of the first.
But something switched with the Demons and they played some of their best football of the division 1 season.
Tullamarine kicked 9.5 to nothing for the rest of the quarter, to remarkably lead by a goal at the final break.
But the last break came at the right time for Airport West, which was able to reset and go again.
They were able to capitalise on the Demons’ skill errors, kicking the only three goals of the last quarter to win 16.11(107)-13.16 (94).
For Demons coach David Connell there was mixed emotions after the game.
He was disappointed with the end result, but proud of how the boys had responded in the second half.
“I’m really proud of this group. To be 50 points down at half-time and then be in a position to win a grand final, I’m not too sure many teams would have been able to do what we did in the third quarter.
“I’m proud of the effort, disappointed with the result.”
Connell said at half-time they focused on three elements they thought they were really poor at in the first half.
They also changed the structure and moved some players around, including moving Will Becker to the midfield, and Anthony Prestia and Russell Laurie to the forward line.
“We changed the structure a little bit and that seemed to work and we got on top and got some momentum,” he said.
“With Tyson Young playing on the ball and no genuine match up for Rus, we tried to mix it around and tried to make [Matthew] Duggan and [Clayton] Rogers a bit more accountable.
“Rus always comes at the footy and he straightened us up in the third quarter.”
Connell, like everyone else in the crowd, was in disbelief that they had taken the lead in the third quarter.
He said despite the brilliance of that quarter, they didn’t really have a chance to look back at it.
“We said to the boys at half-time if they could chip away at the lead and get it back to three to four goals and give them a scare we would be happy.
“We didn’t expect that, especially after they kicked the first goal.
“You get caught up in the moment. Even at three-quarter time we were more focused on what is going to happen in the last quarter.”
Whether the big comeback impacted the last quarter performance and they possibly ran out of legs, Connell wasn’t sure.
Disposal errors and a couple of missed shots in front of goal cost them, including hitting the post from 10 metres out.
Connell said they weren’t critical of the last quarter, with the group playing to instruction.
“It reinforces how close we are and how resilient this football club is.”
Anthony Prestia and Jack Kennedy kicked three goals each for the Demons.
Connell said he thought Becker was one of the keys in the turnaround.
He also praised the efforts of 17-year-old Tim Matson who kept Bior Malual quiet in the third quarter.
Malual was named best on ground.
The match saw two great careers come to an end. Craig Steele and Laurie had both previously announced they were retiring come season’s end.
The grand final loss is the Demons third in five years, having lost in 2014 and 2016.
Connell said the fact they kept making grand finals showed what the club is made of.
“A lot of people look at 2014, 2016 and 2018 and forget the number of people who left this football club.
“From the 2014 grand final, seven players stayed at the club and they were able to back up and go again in 2016.
“From 2016 to now there is 11 players different.
“This football club keeps turning up. Finals 12 years in a row is quite remarkable when you look at it like that.”
For more EDFL news: