Grace rises to the challenge

MERRIVALE defender Jack “Spoons” Grace only found out he would play on Darcy Lewis on Friday night via a text message from coach Karl Dwyer.

He had contemplated an afternoon manning Chris Keilar but wasn’t fazed either way. He’d taken on Lewis before — he knew what his job was.

But for all his prior knowledge, Grace never considered the Warrnambool and District league qualifying final would pan out as it did.

The key position player with speed to burn was among the Tigers’ best in their 15.10 (100) to 6.8 (44) defeat of Dennington at Allansford Recreation Reserve.

“He just works really hard, he runs everywhere and they like to hit him up every time. You’ve just got to be on your game with the play,” Grace said of Lewis.

“I got pretty lucky I guess. It comes down to the midfielders putting pressure on the kicker. That gives me a chance to set up for the spoil a bit more.

“I’ve had a couple of good battles with him over the years. I haven’t played on him for a while but I didn’t think I played too bad.”

Merrivale coach Karl Dwyer was full of praise for Grace, part of a resilient defence alongside Todd McLean, Scott Kelly and Matthew Gleeson.

“I think he had eight or nine tackles and who knows how many spoils, probably double that. He was huge,” he said.

Manny Sandow eclipsed Josh Lock in the ruck while the defenders  let the Dogs take just four marks inside 50.

Brad Kelly was the dominant forward with five goals, four before half-time when the game was in the balance.

The Tigers’ onballers — Al Porter, James Kelly, Josh Sobey and Sam Gleeson among them — were also super at the stoppages after the long break.

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