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Tucker Tales: McLaren Kick Away in Grand Final Replay

Willunga had the home ground advantage but went into the round three clash with thirteen of its 2023 grand final team either at South, injured or retired. Despite being shorthanded they went goal-for-goal with the visitors for three quarters. In the final quarter Ellis got off the leash and won important balls which he used effectively going forward and McLaren kicked away.

Haskett for Willunga dominated the first fifteen minutes of the game. He marked strongly and looked threatening in attack: he kicked one goal and was instrumental in bringing the ball to ground to allow Hams to score. When the McLaren defence teamed up on him it left Sherry free to take strong marks. McLaren looked less imposing in attack but by the 15-minute mark of the quarter were able to equalise the score with a scrambled goal then a classy snap over the shoulder from Ellison. Willunga kicked away again when Shirvington, who played his best game for the Demons, was freed and gaoled from 30-metres. McLaren’s most impressive goal came at the 25-minute mark when rebound from defence put the ball in a dangerous position and Henry Matthews was freed. He goaled from thirty-five metres.

Mitton came into the game in the second quarter with his pace. As his confidence grew, he took on the Willunga opposition and dared them to lay an effective tackle him.Mitton gave Lachlan Matthews a chance to convert but his shot drifted wide. He did not miss his own opportunity to goal when it arose two minutes later. Hutchens made something out of nothing and kicked a long goal, the last of the quarter at the 10-minute mark. After that, the defences for both teams were tight and forced errors by their opposition forwards. Mills was outstanding in defence for the Demons, spoiling when the opportunity arose and marking when he had the chance. His teammate, Daniel, defended vigorously and turned defence into attack on several occasions. Fitt and Jamieson were equally effective in the Eagles’ defence. The halftime siren ended a gruelling quarter of football with McLarens going in with an 8-point lead.

The third quarter was equally as tight with Willunga’s Haskett scoring the only goal of the quarter to bring the margin back to 2 points at three-quarter time. The ball went from end-to-end and the few goal-scoring opportunities went begging for both sides. A controversial decision almost resulted in a McLaren goal. Mitton tried to run around a Willunga defender who clutched at his gurnsey and stopped his momentum. The tackle was deemed a sling. When Willunga expressed their disagreement with the decision, a 25-metre penalty was awarded to Mitton. His shot at goal went to the right and fell short. McLarens’ next best chance came from a mark in the goal square but the siren had sounded to end the quarter just seconds before.

The final quarter belonged to McLarens. They kicked two goals in the first two minutes thanks to strong running out of the centre by Mitton. Jarrett and Merrett marked and kicked accurately to break the game open. Ellis then effected a brave smother, recovered the bouncing ball and passed to Fitt who kicked another. A fourth consecutive goal was marked inches inside the goal-line by Haskett who had been moved to defence. Holbertson kicked another for McLaren after rebounding defence by Goodieson. To Willunga’s credit, they bounced back. Seb Hoeck won a hard ball, passed to Danieland on to Sherry who converted. From the centre bounce, Shirvington drove the ball long to where Schmidt took a strong contested mark and kicked a major from outside 50-metres. McLarens responded in time-on: Jarrett and Henry Matthews goaled to push the final margin out to 43-point, double Willunga’s score.


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