PORT ONE STEP CLOSER

Contemplating Port Melbourne’s chances to play off in the 2011 VFL Grand Final was beyond Gary Ayres’ wildest dreams.

“If you had’ve said six months ago that you’ll be playing off in a Grand Final, you’d say, give me some of what your smoking cause I want to get on it too,” Ayres said on Saturday.

Despite remaining undefeated this year, the Port Melbourne coach was relieved to be playing in the VFL Grand Final following their 22-point win over the Northern Bullants at Teac Oval.

The Borough was challenged by a highly competitive Northern Bullants line-up as they stepped it up once again come finals time.

It was 11am Saturday morning when Bullants coach Darren Harris made the call to play Carlton forward, Jarrad Waite. The 28-year old trained the night before and put his hand up for selection.

The Bullants backline stood tall and their transition out of defence was exceptional. Moments before half time, the Bullants ruck division was dealt a blow when Levi Casboult went down with an ankle injury.

Nick Meese had to take control of the rucking duties while Port Melbourne’s Dean Galea had chalked up five goals before half time.

Rhys O’Keefe ploughed on for the Bullants, constantly chasing and attacking the football in contested situations, which assisted in Ryan Houlihan’s five-goal haul.

Dual JJ Liston trophy winner Shane Valenti proved he’s in a class of his own, weaving in and out of traffic in the Borough forward line to then slot a goal directly in front.

As Ayres said, “Shane Valenti is all class”.

The Borough claimed the final quarter as their own, kicking six goals to three and out-running the exhausted Bullants.

Sam Pleming had his pants pulled down by Houlihan and was then moved down forward who kicked two vital goals for Port Melbourne, along with Chris Cain who kicked three.

Post match, Ayres was thrilled to finally put to bed the idea that they needed to drop a game before competing in the Grand Final.

“Ever since it’s gotten closer to the finals, there has probably been a lot of people that have said you can’t continue to win and we have shut the door on that,” Ayres said.

Not only did Ayres praise the efforts of the entire team, but particularly Borough captain John Baird.

“He (Baird) should go down as one of the best captain’s this club has ever had,” he said.

“I’ve got undying confidence in these boys and I just ask them and they keep giving. Today the whole 22 were unbelievable warriors.”

“I’m in awe of these boys and I love them to death.”

While Northern Bullants coach Harris was disappointed with the loss, he couldn’t be more impressed with the commitment of his players.

“I think when Casboult goes down and Meese has to keep rucking against their rotation of ruckman really had an impact on us,” Harris said.

“McLean was under duress in the second half, he did his ankle and had a bung hip as well so he was just hanging in there.”

“I’m just really proud with the way we fought it out. I thought it was an outstanding effort and we gave them a real shake.”

Port Melbourne will take on their oldest rival in Williamstown on September 25 for the VFL Grand Final at Etihad Stadium.

Port Melbourne last beat Williamstown in 1964 but, it was Williamstown who defeated the Borough in three consecutive Grand Finals from 1954 -1956.


Also appearing on the VFL website.

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