Footscray has snatched an improbable top four finish in the Hockey Victoria men’s premier league.
The Bulldogs seemed destined to miss out on a finals double chance, but pulled off something of a miracle in the final two home-and-away rounds.
On the penultimate weekend, Footscray came back from the dead to beat Hawthorn 5-4 after scoring four goals in the last eight minutes.
It kept the Bulldogs’ slim hopes of a double chance alive entering the final round, but even a win against Brunswick would not have been enough to break into the top four.
The Bulldogs needed to win big to make up a sizeable five goals of score difference on Greensborough and they did just that with a stunning 11-0 annihilation of Brunswick at the Footscray Hockey Centre on Saturday.
Footscray coach Jarrod Lester said it was “very rare” to win in such a destructive manner, but with the arsenal that his side possesses, anything was possible.
“It was a big win,” he said.
“It was pretty important that we had a big win to boost our goal difference so we could finish in fourth position.
“We’ve certainly got the firepower to beat any side.
“We were pretty confident if we did things right and shared the ball, we’d be able to create a number of opportunities.”
Footscray ran riot to score 11 unanswered goals.
Liam Braithwaite had a field day, scoring five goals.
It was a continuation of the strong form he has enjoyed since the mid-point of the season.
“His second half of the year has been really good,” Lester said.
“He’s working hard both ways, defensive and offensively. Opportunities came his way and he finished quite well.”
Campbell Ashton fired in two goals for Footscray. Simon Borger was brilliant as an attacking defensive player, while Oscar Allan was prominent in the midfield.
The clean sheet was a nice addition to a perfect game for Footscray.
“If we get our structures right, we think we can be dangerous [in the finals],” Lester said.
“It’s just a matter of our defence holding up and everyone contributing to that team defence.”
Footscray will get the first crack at minor premiers Southern United, knowing a win will take them straight through to the preliminary final.
In women’s premier league, Footscray finished the season in second place, just one point behind minor premiers Hawthorn.
The Bulldogs had a comfortable 4-0 win over Yarra Valley in the final round.