IT was supposed to be a “sweet 16” celebration for Panmure but instead it turned into a coming of age party for Merrivale.
In front of a huge crowd at the Merrivale Recreation Reserve yesterday, the Tigers caused the upset of the season when they defeated Panmure 9.22 (76) to 5.7 (37).
After an unbeaten first 15 rounds of the season, the Bulldogs winning run came to an abrupt end.
The loss has opened the door for the four finals contenders below them with the Tigers’ impressive performance lifting them to the head of the chasing pack.
Not even a dose of the yips in front of goals could stop Merrivale’s surge to glory with the Tigers kicking an incredible 22 points in their 31 shots for goal.
The game began as many may have predicted, with the Bulldogs going out to an early lead. Coach Simon O’Keefe’s drive in the middle and a lively forward line led by Tom White took Panmure to a 12-point quarter-time lead.
But it was the Tigers who took the game to the next level in the second quarter as they controlled the flow of play and created many forward opportunities.
Unfortunately, the one part of the game letting them down was their conversion rate as they added just one goal and 10 points for the quarter.
But such was their dominance this poor kicking did not cost them, with the Bulldogs not bothering the scorers for the quarter, giving the Tigers a four-point half-time lead.
A strong and tricky breeze blowing across the ground meant goals were always going to be hard to come by, so when the Tigers kicked the first three of the third quarter it opened up a significant break. A late goal from Tom White pulled the margin back to 17 points at the last break with the game still there for the taking.
Four minutes into the last quarter a mark and goal from Panmure’s Alex White narrowed the margin to 10 points and the reigning champs seemed to be coming hard.
But the reply was swift from the Tigers as Josh Sobey won the next centre clearance, and hit James Fary lace-out, with the big Tiger forward nailing the goal from 40 metres out.
It was a clear statement Merrivale was not letting this game go and the Tigers were able to kick the last three goals of the game to seal a huge win.
This was a big occasion for the district league — a Sunday blockbuster between the competition’s best two teams.
The game lived up to its hype and was finished off perfectly with best man on the ground Sam Gleeson kicking a 50-metre goal on the final siren and sending the Tigers’ faithful into delirious celebrations.
This was to be the day Merrivale either showed itself as a serious contender or continued to play second fiddle to Panmure.
The Tigers left everyone in no doubt that their best is capable of matching it with anyone in a performance that had plenty to like about it.
Perhaps the most important thing to emerge from the day for the Tigers was the form of Todd McLean in his first senior game for the season. His reading of the play and use of the ball across half-back set him apart.
Along with Karl Dwyer and Scott Kelly, the Tigers have a half-back line that uses the ball by foot as well as anyone in the competition and one that gives them plenty of drive.
The other major plus for the day for Merrivale was the form of big Joe Woonton at centre half-forward. He was up and about all day, jumping high, plucking some big grabs and kicking the ball a long way — a 50-metre-plus goal in the third quarter was a highlight.