Wednesday 22 September 2010
Morningside’s decision to bring champion midfielder David Lillico into their grand final team paid dividends in the last quarter, just as the coaching staff had planned.
Coach John Blair and his panel took the tough decision of omitting Nick Clark for Lillico, and the former skipper looked rusty early in limited playing time.
However, he was in the thick of the action playing out of a forward pocket during the Panthers searing last quarter surge.
He created one goal with his strength over the football and had a hand in another as the Panthers broke the game apart.
Morningside’s fourth quarters had been poor leading into the grand final but they responded to the challenge in the best possible manner.
“We knew we wanted to go with Lillico with the idea to unleash him in the last quarter,” Blair said.
“It’s a little bit doing different doing it down there (in the forward line), but his body strength was pretty important.”
It was a fairytale ending to a difficult season for Lillico, who underwent a knee reconstruction after Round 3.
It was testament to his mental and physical prowess that he should return in Round 18 to senior action, although he spent the first three weeks of the finals series in the reserves.
Lillico joined the retiring Jacob Gough, Shaun Mugavin, Jarrod Price and Dean Edwards as four-time premiership players for Morningside.
Morningside were able to finish the game so strongly because Ryan Holman dominated the centre square.
“He was great, he’s a fantastic player,” Blair said. “It’s just a pity that he’s never been able to get going consistently. He struggles every so often with his body tightness. He’s a great player and a good kid.”
Blair was also full of praise for co-captain Kent Abey, who won his third premiership – and the Joe Grant Medal as best afield.
“Any forward that kicks six goals and presents 250 times and takes the ball to the line when he’s one-out against four and five is a shoe-in (for the medal),” Blair said.
It was testimony to both Abey’s ability and Blair’s coaching that the talented left-footer should have a day out.
He was well beaten by Aaron Shattock in the preceding contest between the clubs.
“He didn’t beat Kent so much. He played well because he keeps peeling back and reading the play and we butchered the footy going forward,” Blair said. “By placing (the ball) in front of Kent and letting him run onto it make the difference.
“He’s got great hands and it was a matter of him taking his opportunities to convert.”