EDENHOPE-APSLEY’S desperate one-point win over Swifts on Saturday has blown the race for a top-three finish wide open in the Horsham District Football Netball League.
The Saints won a gruelling arm wrestle with the Baggies on their home turf in Edenhope with a rushed behind in the dying minutes.
The winning margin – and the way in which it was established – reflected the tough nature of the contest.
The margin was never more than three points at any of the changes, and consecutive goals were hard to come by.
Chris Oliver dominated across the half-back line for Edenhope-Apsley, intercepting opposition kicks and turning the ball over.
He also pushed further up the ground to great effect and kicked a goal.
Tom Clissold and Cameron Domaschenz shared the load up forward with three goals apiece for the Saints, and Mat Cranage booted two.
Ruckman Bernard Kealy and onballer Dave McLeish also impressed.
For Swifts, it was centre half-back Justin Thomas who stood out.
Sean Mantell played another great game across the ground, finishing with one goal.
Gavin Slorach’s pressure at half-forward was also a big factor for Swifts.
Coach Ben Martin booted three goals for the Baggies, while Scott Carey and Isaac Rathgeber each bagged two.
Edenhope-Apsley coach Grant Coxon said he was proud of the way his team kept attacking throughout the game.
“It felt like they got their goals a bit easier, and we had to really work for our goals,” he said.
“It was really a shoot-out even though it wasn’t high scoring, and both teams had to keep attacking.
“We have been beaten by two or three goals a few times this season, so to be on the other end of a close one was really good.”
Swifts co-coach Paul Hanns said his side had been outplayed by Edenhope-Apsley, but was still confident it could win if it met the Saints in the finals.
“We went there with probably eight senior players out, which is no excuse because you have to play with what you’ve got,” he said.
“It was disappointing that a few of our senior leaders couldn’t stand up and give a little bit more in the last quarter, but overall I thought we played well.”
Two of the missing senior players, Owen Phillips and vice-captain Jake Goodes, are likely to miss another week with injury.
The result adds plenty of intrigue to the top-three race.
Barring calamity in its final four rounds, Laharum will win the minor premiership, but second and third spots are up for grabs.
Kalkee’s win over Harrow-Balmoral lifted it into the top three for the first time this season, and Swifts now lead the Kees by just four premiership points and a slim percentage.
Harrow-Balmoral is fourth, but has the worst percentage of the top five, while Edenhope-Apsley trails the Kees and Roos by only four points.
Kalkee looks likely to cement its top-three berth with four games against teams outside the top five remaining.
Edenhope-Apsley, Swifts and Harrow-Balmoral each play two other top-five teams in the run home.