Chelt charges into Division 1 grand final
It was everywhere in the Cheltenham changerooms rooms and outside them too since so many supporters couldn’t get in.
They came from everywhere to hear the club song, and they slapped the backs of the players so hard it would be no surprise if one or two of the Rosellas seek the services of a chiropractor this week.
“We’re there!’’ club stalwart Col Anderson said to anyone he came across.
The stirring scenes unfolded at Linton St, Moorabbin on Saturday after Cheltenham brilliantly and boldly outplayed Dingley by 63 points in the SFNL Division 1 second semi-final to go through to the grand final.
The Rosellas’ most recent senior premiership was in 1995. But their last first division flag was in 1934.
As an elated coach Des Ryan took in the sight of so many thrilled supporters, he wore a smile as wide as the wings of the Moorabbin ground.
“Fantastic feeling to get to the grand final,’’ the former Richmond defender said.
“We’ve given ourselves every chance now to do something and make these people even happier and prouder.’’
All day and in every way, the Rosellas had Dingley covered.
They kicked with a gusty wind in the first quarter and opened it superbly, with 17-year-old Finn Ryan (son of the coach) snapping a goal in the first 15 seconds. And still within the first minute Anthony Malamas hit the post.
Cheltenham was quickly on top and kicking the ball to key forwards Will McTaggart, Sean McLaren and Ryan.
McTaggart slotted a goal, then took a speccie that Jeremy Howe would happily have claimed, only to miss the straightforward set-shot.
Rob Iudica didn’t miss after beating off four Dingley players with sweets steps and powerful fend-offs, making his bid for goal of the season. He’s a bull of a midfielder — “very strong through the hips’’, Ryan noted.
When Jax Kilner put away a snap, it was 4.5 to 0.1. The Rosellas had put down a marker through their tall forwards, their tenacious midfielders, their taught defence and fierce tackling.
What could Dingley do with the wind in the second quarter?
Classy youngster Lachlan Lamble scored the Dingoes’ first goal, but Chelt got the next two, through McLaren after a brilliant burst forward from McTaggart and prolific midfielder Dylan Weickhardt, enjoying a 50m penalty.
The Dingoes answered via Daniel Farmer and Alex Windhager, and went into half time 21 points adrift but still in the match.
Cheltenham shut them out of it with a run of goals in the third quarter, the best of them when Sam Hayes came dashing out of defence and kicked long for Ryan to take a strong mark.
The ball finished with McTaggart, who snapped it through.
It was a brilliant passage from a team that combines grit with sparkling skills and has a happy blend of experience (Weickhardt, Daniel Vaughan, captain Jack Worrell, Daniel Harrison) and youth (Ryan, Blitsas, Malamas, Luke Garnaut).
Ryan said his team’s second quarter was crucial.
“We didn’t kick accurately in the first and we expected there would be a real comeback from the opposition,’’ he said.
“But our defensive acts in the second quarter, I think that’s where we won the game. We build our game around defensive attitude and contested effort. We pressured them all day and when we’ve won games of football this year, that’s what we’ve done well. That’s what we’re going to stick to.’’
The Rosellas “rolled the dice’’ with the seasoned Jack Barclay, who was OK to play but was held back.
“We sat him out thinking we could win today and give him another week,’’ Ryan said.
He said marquee recruit and former Adelaide wingman Myke Cook, who injured his knee on ANZAC Day against Bentleigh, “would be trying to put his hand up’’.
“We’ve got a squad of 30 training and I’m happy if any one of them comes into the side at any given time,’’ he said.
“We’re pretty lucky at the moment with our depth.’’
Club great Anderson became teary as he reflected on Cheltenham’s rise this year.
He said the club’s last first division grand final was in the Federal league in 1976 and there had been highs and lows since then.
“This is huge. It means a lot,’’ he said. “We’re there and we’re a chance.’’
Cheltenham 14.13 (97) d Dingley 5.4 (34)
Cheltenham goals: R. Iudica 3, W. McTaggart 3, T. Davis 2, S. McLaren 2, D. Weickhardt, F. Ryan, J. Kilner, A. Malamas
Best: D. Weickhardt, F. Ryan, C. Blitsas, R. Iudica, C. Kelso, W. McTaggart
Dingley goals: L. Lamble, T. Parker, D. Farmer, R. Rusan, A. Windhager
Best: M. Morwood, L. Lamble, J. Ades, D. Ades, C. Horton-Milne, L. Walmsley