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Finals destiny in Darley hands

Photo - Tim Saultry / sportingherald.com.au

By Todd Whelan

Darley has secured an all-important 30-point win at home over flag fancies East Point, to move into fifth place on the BFNL ladder. The Devils currently sit in the box seat for a significant final’s appearance with just three rounds of the home and away season remaining. Only cross-town rivals Bacchus Marsh, stand in their way as the two sides prepare to face off in Saturday’s blockbuster local derby at Maddingley Park.

The nature of last Saturday’s win over the Kangas officially raises the bar of expectation on Dan Jordan’s young group who withstood all of the reigning dual Premiers physicality and pressure to win ‘going away’. The Devils midfield response led by Luther Baker (19 disp), Brett Bewley (40 disp) and Dylan Landt (36 disp) was emphatic, reversing the tables on their round nine clash when the Kangas crew Matty Johnston (32 disp), Mickitja Rottumah-Onus (18 disp) and Jordy Taylor (22 disp) took the honours. In fairness the Kangas were without Jackson Merrett (hamstring) and Joe Dodd (knee soreness) from their previous meet but that can be squared away with Devils’ absentees – Shane Page (overseas), Leigh Spiteri (hamstring), Brady Wright (B/Rebels) and Will Johnson (knee) – all of whom are hopeful of a return. For the record, the Devils are 5-1 from Dylan Landt’s six games in the black and white.

There were warning signs early for the Devils coughing up the opening two goals of the game on the back of defensive turnovers, redeemingly inherent of their disappointing 14 point loss to Redan a week earlier. But the Devils buy-in was palpable. Their maturity, led by their more experienced leaders was a shining light in clearly their best team win of the season. Devils forward Nick Rodda (4 goals) won the battle of the ‘keys’ on the goal front as Kangas star Jordy Johnston (1.4) was well held by rising star Mace Cousins. The 21 year old continued with his consistent season and was part of a winning back six bouyed by the recent returns of Matty Brett, Darren Leonard and Duncan Cadman. Devils wingman Bailey Young (34 disp) and Joel Cadman were the next best for the Devils who struggled to find a player with little or no influence. For the Kangas, Jacob Brown (31 disp) and Cam Lovig (28 disp) had plenty of the ball but moreso under the pump in their back half. Despite evidence of further progress in  Kangas youngsters Liam Canny and Jack Jeffries (two goals each), Jake Bridge’s boys were humbled to their second lowest score of the season.

There was further upside for the Devils as yet another product of the Under 19s made his debut – namely Justin Runge. With limited opportunities the pacy Runge presented enough throughout the afternoon to generate a set shot on goal but just missed. Other youngsters Cooper Murley (2 goals) and Mitch Gardiner (1 goal) managed to hit the scoreboard, adding further pressure for their more seasoned rivals.

While the Devils are not shy on youth, a mountain of credit must be saved for the senior members of the team. Their communication skills and physical presence provided the necessary directive and protection for the more inexperienced members of the group to thrive.

How Jordan and his crew bank the win and reset ahead of Bacchus Marsh looms season defining. For now, they’re merely at ‘base camp’ as finals remain firmly on the Cobras radar. Unfortunately for these two sides, seven doesn’t go into six, confirming this local derby to be touted as ‘one for the ages’.