North Geelong stamped its authority on the opening final of 2014, punishing the Hawks in a classy first half of the qualifying final to set up a blockbuster encounter with Bell Post Hill.
The Magpies led 9.2 to 3.5 at the main change rattling the young Hawks, who previously defeated North Geelong in their only match this season. Despite a better showing in the second half from Inverleigh, the damage was already done.
“We learnt after playing them (earlier in the year) that we had to hunt them and we hunted them today and I thought we were fantastic in that area.” Coach Darren Ryan said.
“It just shows the pride and the depth of our club. To come up against Inverleigh and take it up to them the way we did – I was very proud of them.”
“It’s finals football; we knew what we were up for ... I thought collectively the whole 22 blokes were really good.”
The reigning premiers now advance to take on minor premiers Bell Post Hill in what could prove to be a Grand Final preview. North Geelong will be strengthened by the return of Daniel Kee, Rodney Hutchinson and Justin DiBlasio for the tantalizing clash with the “powerhouse” of the competition.
“The last two years we’ve had some really good contests.”
“The last six years they’ve been the powerhouse of the competition – it’s a great challenge.”
“They’re (Bell Post Hill) what we want to be ... we want to match what they’ve done and that takes a lot of work. We’ve got a lot belief in our club there’s no doubt about it. We think we can, we know we can.”
Magpie stalwart Derek Fitzsimmons was instrumental in the 24-point victory, as were Darcy Eales and Lachie Wright with their crucial defensive roles while Steve Richert had the ball on a string in defence, taking numerous intercept marks.
The Magpies got off to a flying start with leaders Derek Fitzsimmons and PJ DiSanto converting early to set the tone. The goals continued the flow the way of the more experienced outfit as the reigning premiers went into quarter-time with a 25-point lead.
As the Hawks had their turn with the breeze they began to turn the momentum but couldn’t capitalize on multiple entries, whereas North Geelong booted four straight goals to remain in full control of the contest.
The match looked to be heading one way as the Magpies slammed on the opening three goals of the second half to extend the margin to a game-high 51 points. With the heat out of the match and the result seemingly beyond doubt, the Hawks through Casey Meehan delivered back-to-back goals to give them an outside chance.
The Inverleigh revival continued as three of the first four goals in the final term went the way of the Hawks to reel the margin back to 26 points and an unlikely comeback looked to be gaining momentum. The hope was short-lived as Luke Van Krieken made the Inverleigh defence pay for a costly error to kick truly and put his side en route to Bell Post Hill.