KALKEE withstood a spirited Swifts comeback to emerge victorious in the qualifying final at Balmoral Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
The Kees looked to be in control before a Baggies fightback.
Swifts had the better of the first 10 minutes with Ricky Whitehead helping sweep the ball off half-back and send the team into attack.
Richard Thomas put the first goal on the board for Swifts after marking in the goal square, but the experience of Kalkee’s big-game players including Steve Schultz and Brendan McDonald showed in the midfield.
The Kees slowly worked their way on top and Liam French goaled after a beautiful set up from Schultz to put his team one point ahead at the first change.
Both teams seemed to struggle with blustery conditions early, with lots of players making skill errors.
Neither team could reliably find targets inside 50 despite the ball moving freely from end to end.
Kalkee started to press its advantage in the second quarter, locking the ball in the forward line.
The sustained pressure showed immediate dividends, with French, Adam Carter and Matt Beddison giving the Kees three quick goals.
Another goal from Carter put the Kees ahead 36-9, and it looked as if their momentum would carry them to a big win.
Isaac Rathgeber broke the Kalkee stranglehold with an opportunistic goal from a stoppage in the forward pocket, but Schultz found a quick reply just before the half-time siren.
The forecasted rain finally arrived during the half-time break, making a Swifts comeback seem even more unlikely.
The Baggies were late to emerge from the changerooms, but whatever co-coaches Ben Martin – on the sidelines with a hamstring injury – and Paul Hanns said, worked.
A re-energised Swifts team put on its own incredible burst of five goals in a matter of minutes, with Julian Carr kicking two of them and putting the Baggies back in front.
Nick Pickering, Whitehead and Sean Mantell were crucial across half-back and the midfield, turning the match in Swifts’ favour.
Kalkee centre-half-back Josh Mibus took it upon himself to break the momentum, running forward and kicking a crucial goal to keep his side’s nose in front at the final change.
The side responded to kick three consecutive goals to start the last quarter, effectively sealing the result.
Sam Jasper’s run became hugely important for Kalkee in the second half.
Both teams’ defences were outstanding all day.
The big bodies of Josh Beddison, Barry O’Brien and Josh Mibus stood up in the wet for Kalkee and limited opportunities for Carr and Richard Thomas.
At the other end, Aaron Chavasse and Justin Thomas did well to blunt the early strong form of Carter and French, although Thomas left the field with a knee injury and was taken to hospital for scans.
Big man Tim Wade and attacking half-back Ollie Young returned from shoulder and hamstring injuries respectively for Kalkee.
Wade looked out of sorts early but worked his way into the game, while Young was good in patches.
Kalkee coach Trevor O’Brien said it was not a pretty performance but his side would draw plenty of confidence from the win.
“To be leading well at half-time and then have them come back and take the lead before going on to win means we dug deep,” he said.
“In the third quarter they dominated us and we never really steadied the ship.
“Nobody really took it upon themselves to say ‘let’s do this or that’ – we just kept flowing with the way the game was going.”
Swifts co-coach Ben Martin said the Baggies had done themselves no favours with their ball use.
“Watching from the sidelines, our decision-making was a big let down for us,” he said.
“It was simple things like pushing back off your mark and making sure you get a good kick in that let us down – and it cost us big time.
“Everything came down to which midfield could dominate, and their midfield was on top for three quarters and our midfield was on top for one.”
Martin said the team would draw confidence from the fact it only lost by four goals despite not playing well and making plenty of mistakes.
Kalkee will now challenge Laharum for a spot in the grand final at the weekend.