In a weekend littered with carnage, Koo Wee Rup Football Club landed the most substantial blow in the opening round of the Alex Scott & Staff premiership bout.
The Demons, who crept into the top five by the barest of margins, adapted best to the slick conditions at Cora Lynn Recreation Reserve to win Sunday’s elimination final against Inverloch Kongwak by 29 points.
They were one of six football teams to upset their higher-ranked opponent over the two days of qualifying and elimination finals.
The Sea Eagles had endured an up and down season but were regarded by many to have found their form at the right time and loomed as a genuine flag threat.
However, profligacy in front of goal and a greater degree of desire and intensity from Koo Wee Rup combined to send the 2017 premiers tumbling out at the first hurdle.
Both sides made minor changes at the selection table, with Sea Eagles winger Corey Casey returning for his first game since round 16 in place of Dan Houston, while the Demons recalled Shannon Marsh and Nick Prowd in place of Caleb Milojevic and Kalin Parker.
The Demons settled fastest, winning a series of stoppages before Mitch Cammarano’s quick hands found fellow young gun Matt Voss, who shared with his brother Nathan for the opening goal of the game inside the opening 90 seconds.
The Sea Eagles worked their way into the game and, after a couple of sighters from tall forward Sam Gibbins, hit the lead courtesy of a composed set shot from Dylan Clark.
A classy checkside set shot from Toby Mahoney at the 23-minute mark extended Inverloch Kongwak’s lead before the Demons pulled one back through Darren Sheen to be within two straight kicks at quarter time.
From there it was all Koo Wee Rup, at least as far as the scoreboard was concerned.
Three more goals to Nathan Voss, two to Sheen and one to Marsh went without reply, as the Sea Eagles were unable to convert any of their 10 scoring shots between the first and last changes.
Gibbins broke the drought 10 minutes into the last term, but came among three more from Sheen, whose big game experience came to the fore, as he finished with a season-high six goals in the 11.10 (76) to 5.17 (47) win – a final score that makes for tough reading for Inverloch Kongwak fans.
Veteran Luke Walker was the best player on the ground, while Nathan Muratore and Mitch Collins were also prominent for the Demons.
Adam Cross and Dan Reid were standouts for the Sea Eagles, while Casey justified his inclusion with a classy performance.
The Demons will now meet Cora Lynn in the first semi-final, after the Cobras were turned over by Tooradin Dalmore in Saturday’s qualifying final at Koo Wee Rup Recreation Reserve.
Both sides made three changes to their teams from round 18, with Jeremy Monckton, Troy Tharle and Shaun Sparks all declared fit for the Cobras, while Luke McKenna, Rory Hillis and Brad Lenders all returned for the Seagulls.
Tooradin Dalmore settled quickly with an early goal to Andrew Dean, before the Cobras roared to life with three goals in less than two minutes to Chris Johnson, Jaxon Briggs and Nathan Gardiner.
The tide turned again as the Seagulls booted four of the next five majors to hold a six-point lead at the first change.
After a frenetic opening term, the goals dried up in the second, with Nick Lang’s late snap one of only three for the quarter.
The game followed a similar pattern in the second half, with Dean striking first for the Gulls to open up a game-high 23-point margin, before Johnson and Gardiner hit back for the Cobras.
Two goals to Jake O’Donnell put Tooradin Dalmore 26 clear at the final change and while Travis Woodfield got the first of the last for Cora Lynn, it was the Seagulls that found a new gear.
Goals to Cameron Brown, Julian Suarez and Dean – who finished the game as he started it – led the Gulls to an impressive 13.18 (96) to 8.6 (54) victory.
Dylan Sutton, Adam Galea and Lewis Hill were the standouts for Tooradin Dalmore, while co-captain Tim Payne, Johnson and Brady White were best for Cora Lynn.
It was a tough day for the Sea Eagles, who were also eliminated from the reserves division by Bunyip, 9.6 (60) to 6.7 (43), and the fourths by Korumburra Bena, 3.7 (25) to 6.7 (43).
In the other elimination final, Cora Lynn defeated Nar Nar Goon 8.14 (62) to 4.2 (26).
The Cobras will now face Bunyip in the first semi-final, after the Bulldogs were upset by the Sea Eagles 12.9 (81) to 7.8 (50) to book a second semi-final date with Phillip Island.
Nar Nar Goon overcame Garfield in the fourths qualifying final, 6.8 (44) to 2.2 (14), while reigning premier Koo Wee Rup surprised the Island in the reserves, winning 9.5 (59) to 6.5 (41).
Over on the netball courts, results were much more routine, with 10 of the 12 higher ranked sides advancing.
That’s not to say it was all smooth sailing.
Two-time reigning premier Dalyston needed to be on their game in the A Grade qualifying final against Korumburra Bena, with scores level at three quarter time.
The Magpies managed to find the answers, eventually surging clear to win 53-45 and book a second semi-final date with minor premier Tooradin Dalmore.
The Giants will now face Nar Nar Goon, which held Bunyip at arm’s length from start to finish to eliminate the Yips 40-33.
Tooradin Dalmore and Dalyston will also contest the B Grade second semi-final, after the Magpies defeated Nar Nar Goon 42-36.
The Goon will face Warragul Industrials, which found a way past Bunyip 36-17.
Cora Lynn’s C Grade side ensured there would be no trifecta of Gulls-Magpies matches by downing Dalyston 38-29 to book a date with Tooradin Dalmore.
The Magpies will use their second chance against Bunyip, following the Yips’ 27-21 win against Koo Wee Rup in Sunday’s elimination final.
The 17-and-under competition is an all-southern affair, after Dalyston eliminated Cora Lynn 31-21 to set up a clash with Korumburra Bena, which fell short against Inverloch Kongwak 26-22 in the qualifying final.
The Sea Eagles will take on minor premier Phillip Island in Saturday’s second semi-final.
The closest match of the weekend came at Koo Wee Rup on Saturday, where the Demons’ 15-and-under side made the most of a home court advantage to sneak past Cora Lynn 22-21.
The Cobras will get the chance for redemption when they face Warragul Industrials in the first semi-final, after the Dusties upset Phillip Island 21-17.
The Island sprung a surprise of their own in the 13-and-under grade, knocking off Dalyston in the qualifying final to set up a second semi-final showdown with Cora Lynn.
The Magpies remain in contention and will meet Inverloch Kongwak, which held off Koo Wee Rup 15-9.