The oldest trick in the Deer Park finals playbook works just about every time.
When in need of a boost, Lions coach Marc Bullen turns to Kwame McHarg, one of the great Western Region Football League division 1 finals players of a generation, and tells him to go to work.
The move of McHarg to the centre was one of the big reasons why the Lions turned around an 11-point half-time deficit to beat Spotswood in the qualifying final by 30 points at Avalon Airport Oval on Saturday.
“I put my Ferrari in the middle of the ground in the last quarter,” Bullen said.
“He just took away stoppage after stoppage with electrifying speed. He was breathtaking again.”
McHarg was fully part of a Deer Park side that was scintillating in the second half.
The Lions piled on nine goals to two after half-time to run out convincing winners.
It was not all good for the Lions.
Bullen had to remind a few players of their responsibilities to the team in the changeroom at half-time.
“We were thinking about ourselves rather than the team and I gave them a big spray at half-time,” he said.
Jase Perkins copped the biggest wrath from Bullen – and responded in the best possible fashion. The competition’s leading goalkicker finished with five goals.
However, Perkins was reported for striking.
With a tough contest against minor premier Altona upcoming, Deer Park will do whatever it can to get Perkins off the charge.
“We’ll put a good team together to see if we can get him off because he’s such an important player for us,” Bullen said.
Jeremy Mills, Will Krithararis, Mark Galea, Michael James and Shaun Harrison stood up for the Lions. Galea kicked two goals – the Lions’ only other multiple goalkicker.
They won without Shannon Byrnes, Jackson Barling and James Wong, who will all put their hands up for selection this week.
Deer Park will tackle Altona in the second semi-final at Avalon Airport Oval on Saturday.
Altona finished the year on top of the ladder and beat Deer Park twice.
Bullen is happy to bestow the favourite tag on Altona, but does so with a warning.
“I think we’re the underdog,” he said. “They’ve had a good lead-in to the finals, but when you’re playing out at Werribee in finals, you’re playing Deer Park with our forward line and our star players, you’ve got to actually produce, so the pressure is on them to do that.”
In the elimination final, Werribee Districts strolled to a 68-point win over Hoppers Crossing at Avalon Airport Oval.
The Tigers will face Spotswood in the first semi-final at Avalon Airport Oval on Sunday.
In division 2, Yarraville Seddon advanced to the grand final with a 25-point win over minor premier Wyndhamvale.
The Eagles will be hoping it is fourth time lucky after losing the past three grand finals.
Wyndhamvale will face Parkside in the preliminary final at Pennell Reserve on Saturday. Parkside won its semi-final by four points over Point Cook Centrals in a low-scoring game.