STANHOPE’S Kyabram and District Football League premiership aspirations have been sent soaring by a commanding elimination final win and another impressive display from four game player James Gray.
The bulky and physically powerful Gray booted six goals as the Lions dictated terms for almost the entire game against the Lancaster Wombats in last Saturday’s sudden death final at Undera.
Stanhope took control from the first bounce and ran out winners by 78 points, sending a clear message to other premiership hopefuls starting with Avenel in another cut-throat semi-final this Sunday at Girgarre.
While Gray did the finishing off work of teammates, Lancaster’s main goalkicking hope Michael Hill could manage just one of the Wombats’ three goals for the game and was moved into the centre after half-time. Early he was well held by James Fraser who has only taken over the full back post with authority in the past two games.
Stanhope had another vital key forward in Tom Hepburn who was particularly dominant in the first half with powerful marking a feature.
Stanhope’s onballers in Jack and Alex Young, Simon Collis and Adam Auld kept up non-stop opportunities to the Stanhope forwards while Jack Exell led a dominant back six which leaked only three goals for the game.
Lancaster was best served by consistent ruckman Andrew Pettigrove while livewire flanker Nic Ross also tried hard in a badly beaten side.
Veteran Chris Eddy and Logan Demasi tried hard in defence and rising star Liam Nedljkovich did some good work. But a lot of the Lancaster players just couldn’t get into the contest against superior rivals.
Injuries to Jye Patten and Jayden Exell will be of some concern for Stanhope in preparing for this weekend first semi-final battle with Avenel. Both didn’t appear after half - time on Saturday with injuries.
■ AVENEL almost gave up a 42-point half-time lead to Tallygaroopna to win the other elimination final on Sunday.
Tally kicked eight third quarter goals to hit the front at the last change by four points. But the home side rallied to kick four last quarter goals, including three in the last five minutes to snatch a five point win and book a first semi-final showdown with Stanhope this Sunday at Girgarre.
■ LIKE its senior side Stanhope’s reserves were also impressive elimination final winners last Saturday at Undera, ending neighbour Girgarre’s season with a commanding 53-point win.
Dave Hansford with five goals and Dylan Moncur were standouts for the Lions who also got top games from Nic Airs and Brad O’Reilly.
Veterans Dan Freeman and Justin Williams also used their experience to the Lions’ advantage.
Brendan Baumann stood up in attack for Girgarre and booted five goals while Jake Phyland, Dale Reyne, Chris Potter and Ryan Jones battled it out to the finish. But apart from the first term Girgarre was never in the contest.
■ LANCASTER reserves faded after half-time against Murchison-Toolamba at Avenel on Sunday to be eliminated from the finals.
Murchison-Toolamba was only nine points up at the halfway mark but the Wombats didn’t manage a goal in the second half as the Hoppers booted five goals to run out winners by 49 points.
Jordan Lothian, Andrew Douglas, Matt James and Matt Squires did their best to keep Lancaster in the contest with support from Dan Kelsey and Chris Espagne.
■ WHILE its senior and reserves side is out of the finals Lancaster thirds are still alive after a solid win over Murchison-Toolamba in an elimination final at Avenel on Sunday.
The young Wombats kicked clear the second term and from then on determinedly defended their lead to run out winners by 42 points.
Jamie Scapin was active in Lancaster’s forward line with six goals while Aidan Briggs, Kyle Kidd, Ben Nankivell and Jack Squires also showed the way with top games for the Wombats.
■ RUSHWORTH’S under 18 bowed out of the finals race with a heavy defeat to Avenel.
The young Tigers were brushed aside by bigger opponents.
Ike Jones, Jaiden McIlroy, Murphy Bertram and Jarvis Waasdorp held their own for Rushworth with support from Joel May and Hayden Kenney but it was mainly one-way traffic.