Mt Gravatt ran roughshod over Morningside in the second half to confirm their credentials as the form side of the QAFL competition at Dittmer Park yesterday.
Inspired by the memory of teammate Ferg Reid, the Vultures were men on a mission.
They now have beaten two of the top three teams in the last month and will have a strong chance of making it a trifecta when they travel to Southport in a fortnight’s time.
They simply overwhelmed the Panthers with six unanswered goals in the third quarter that turned the match on its head yesterday.
While the final scoreline of 14.15 (99) to 9.17 (71) was not a blowout, the Vultures totally controlled the last hour of the game.
Morningside were left to rue their inability to make the most of their chances, particularly in the first half. They led 4.8 to 3.5 at the long break in a hard-fought slog where the skills of both sides were askew under the enormous pressure that was applied.
When Tyson Upton burst through the middle of the ground to goal early in the third term, the visitors led by 15 points and their confidence was growing.
However, it was stopped in its tracks by the brilliance of the sublime Dean Page, whose excellent work on a wing and around the middle in the first half was complemented by a wonderful cameo at full-forward.
Page was unstoppable on the lead on booted four second half goals and five for the day, working beautifully in tandem with centre-half-forward Michael Schultz.
Schultz created space, had a hand in several goals and booted a brilliant banana of his own from the boundary as the Vultures shot 22 points clear in time-on of the third term, only for the Panthers to generate the last two goals of the quarter in the final minute.
It was the only time they were able to cause problems for the strong Mt Gravatt defence, where Jake Furfaro had regularly won the ball for his team.
Furfaro took a clever one-handed mark running back with the flight of the ball at one stage to show how high his confidence was as he constantly rebounded the ball from half-back.
Mt Gravatt’s transition from defence was far superior to the Panthers in the second half, with Josh Vearing and Adam Tarrant also using the ball well to set up attacking opportunities.
In fact, the Vultures’ foot skills played a major role in the six-goal burst, rarely missing a target.
While Morningside tried hard, Mt Gravatt’s tackling pressure gave them no time or space.
Big numbers surrounded the ball for much of the second half, with both sides prepared to go man-on-man, and it was the Vultures who were able to manufacture the more effective breakaways.
The Vultures put the game out of reach with three more unanswered goals in the opening 10 minutes of the final term.
John James kicked a stunning snap out of traffic on the half-forward line to get the first of the last term, when he was electric.
James won the Ferg Reid Courage Medal, presented by former president David Reid in an emotional ceremony in the Vultures rooms after the game.
The medal will be presented in both seniors and reserves on the last weekend in July every year, following Reid’s passing from bowel cancer last weekend.
The Vultures were appreciative of the respect afforded to them by Morningside, who also wore blue armbands to support bowel cancer awareness and lined up for a minute’s silence in Reid’s honour before the game.
James’ 16 held tackles were indicative of the Vultures’ desire, although Page was the gamebreaker, as he has been against Labrador and Aspley in recent weeks.
The former South Fremantle player is playing as well as any player in the competition.
With Page, James and Furfaro flying, Ash Evans winning plenty of ball, Nathan Gilliland creating opportunities across half-forward, Mick Hamill’s speed hurting the opposition and Schultz playing a key forward role to perfection, the Vultures are on a roll.
Morningside lacked their regular drive from defence with gun tall defenders Aaron Rogers and Jarrod Price having their hands full with Schultz and Page in the second half, and James locking on to the running flankers.
Rogers and Price nonetheless were strong performers in the first half, while Nathan Kinch tried to generate some run.
Ryan Holman was clearly the Panthers’ best midfielder, burrowing under the packs in the first half and winning plenty of free kicks by playing the ball and putting his body on the line.
He tried hard to stem the flow later in the game but didn’t have the support around him.
Jacob Gough tried hard but was matched by young David Hill, who was particularly strong at the bounces.
It was a disappointing day for coach John Blair’s 300th game celebration as coach, with the Panthers now long-shots to finish as minor premiers and unlikely to host a final in the first week.
For rival coach David Lake, it was the perfect result for a tough fortnight for the club.
“I thought the game was intense (in the first half),” Lake said. “I thought we were good and I thought they were good. The side that could steady up and make the most of their opportunities was going to open the game up.
“We took an extra step and an extra breath and made sure we hit our targets.”
Morningside defender Price rued his side’s inability to make the most of their chances when they came.
“We were right in it throughout the whole day, we just made a few decision-making and skill errors,” Price said.
“We were fully focused. The week off you need to readjust and come in flying. There was obviously a fair bit of emotion for them. We were focused, we just didn’t make the most of our opportunities.”