Sunbury Lions come of age

David Kovacevic was best on ground in the Sunbury Lions’ win against Darley. Picture Shawn Smits

On Saturday, Sunbury players turned from cubs to lions in the Ballarat Football League.

On two occasions against Darley in their elimination final, the Lions could have dropped their heads. The past two years they would have but this time they fought on.

The first occasion was early in the third term when the Lions were found to have too many players on the field.

A scuffle just before half-time led to Tim Hill receiving a yellow card, meaning the Lions had to start the second half with 17 players.

They mistakenly played the first 34 seconds of the third term with 18 players, the penalty likely to be deduction of any score they registered in the third quarter. In fact, they managed just 20. The extra-man- on-the-field incident is being investigated. While the scoreboard said the Lions still led by 45 points at three-quarter time, under the penalty they held a margin of 25 points.

The Devils, kicking with the wind, booted the first three goals of the last quarter to reduce the margin to seven points. The Lions responded with five of their own to ensure a 15.13 (103)-7.11 (53) win, the margin of which will likely change when the investigation is completed.

Lions coach Rick Horwood said it was satisfying to see the plan they had put into place come to fruition.

“We’ve been smashed by bigger bodies in the past, but this year the younger players really stood up,” he said. “[They include] the two Wood brothers, Jesse Flannery, Tim Hill, Nathan Bridgland and Dwain Sanderson.

“It was a different aspect [losing the points] and the young guys could have dropped their bundle. The experience from the last couple of years has benefited them massively.”

While the Lions’ late composure sealed the win, it was their dominance early that set it up.

They led 43-1 at quarter-time and could have been further ahead had they kicked straight. At the same time, they restricted the Devils to just one inside 50 for the quarter and laid a massive 21 tackles.

Alik Magin kicked four goals and Jack Landt three. Ruckman David Kovacevic was best on ground. Horwood was full of praise for Adam Short and Joe Redfern in defence and Mathew Medcraft in his 100th game.

The Lions now face Bacchus Marsh in a semi-final and have secured a double chance.

“We haven’t played them since round one,” Horwood said. “We had a three-goal lead and then lost. It was a long time ago.”

The Lions A-grade netball season came to an end against Ballarat on Sunday. After a final round slip-up, the Lions found themselves in an elimination final and struggling to have enough qualified players. A last-quarter comeback fell short, the Lions losing 48-45.