Written by Jarryd Barca
Stolen at the death
The Calder Cannons’ fifth consecutive win was snatched at the jaws of defeat in the final game of the NAB League home-and-away season.
Going into Round 17 with a four-game winning streak, Calder flexed its finals credentials against the top-of-the-table Eastern Ranges – despite losing with the last kick of the game.
The Cannons were five-point leaders at the last change of ends, with that lead extended to 12 when Jeremy O’Sullivan capitalised after 10 minutes.
The Ranges booted two in under a minute to lock the scores at 55 apiece as Avalon Airport Oval was treated to a grandstand finish.
Mason Fletcher was able to edge the home side’s noses in front again with a long-range launch from outside the arch.
The Cannons peppered the inside 50s in the dying stages and had chances to seal the game, but only managed two behinds.
And in heartbreaking circumstances, the Ranges surged the ball forward one last time and locked away a four-point win on the final buzzer.
Assistant coach Brett Gourley was impressed with the players’ ability to take it right up to the minor premiers.
“When you lose any game with a kick after the siren it’s obviously pretty disappointing, but to do what we did against the best team in the competition is a real credit to the boys,” he said.
Calder finished fifth on the ladder following the 9.9 (63) to 10.7 (67) result, winning a total of nine matches for the season.
And they should be taking ample confidence into this week’s Wildcard Round fixture against the Tasmania Devils having registered wins in six of their last seven matches.
“They’ve played some really good footy and we’re starting to gel as a team at the right time of the year,” Gourley said.
“I think it’s a really even competition – anything’s possible and on any day.
“The way this competition works, any team can beat any team.
“We’re really confident heading into this finals campaign and I think the boys should be too.”
Sam Ramsay closed out his home-and-away season with another best-afield 27 touches, seven tackles and five inside 50s.
Midfield counterpart Daniel Mott was also prominent with 21 touches, 10 clearances and six inside 50s, while Jake Sutton (three goals) was the most dangerous of the forwards.
Gourley said the side has come a long way since losing the opening game of the season against Sandringham by 109 points.
“We were having a look at our stats throughout the course of the week to clearly see that this team has improved a hell of a lot,” he said.
“We’re really pleased with our progress – we just have to take that into finals.”
Head coach Ross Smith was as equally proud, optimistic of the Cannons’ ability to compete against the best.
“Eastern’s strength is their clearance numbers, contested ball, tackling and we matched them in all departments,” he told heraldsun.com.au.
“We’re really buoyed by the way we played … we’ve got to learn from the experience, we’ve got to be disappointed but positive and use it to drive us.”