WILLIAMSTOWN 3.2 7.4 8.10 14.11 (95)
SANDRINGHAM 3.0 3.2 6.5 7.7 (49)
WILLIAMSTOWN: Dunell 3, Cordy 3, Conway 2, Hetherington 2, Lockwood, Dorgon, Jolley, Sullivan
SANDRINGHAM: Answerth 2, Shenton, Haidon, Curren, Dennis-Lane, Fisscher
WILLIAMSTOWN: Jolley, Gibbons, Johnstone, Meese, Wheeler
SANDRINGHAM: Answerth, Sinclair, Curren, Verma, Longer
They were brave. They were gallant, but Sandringham’s 2016 came to a close, going down to Williamstown by 46 points in Saturday’s VFL semi-final.
In a rematch of last year’s tight qualifying final, the Zebras sank under the weight of Seagull numbers, struggling to keep afloat as Williamstown marched into next week’s preliminary final against Casey.
Sandringham was left to fight on without small defender Jack Noone, who suffered a horrific broken leg midway through the second quarter.
At first, the devastating injury flattened the Zebras, as Williamstown blew the slim deficit out to 26 points in quick succession.
But it galvanised Sandringham after half time. Kade Answerth, with two of his own, inspired three rapid fire goals from the Zebras to slash Williamstown’s margin to 17 points at three-quarter time.
Out of legs and seemingly out of breath, Sandringham lacked that double counter punch. Williamstown rope-a-doped the Zebras early in the final quarter, charging clear to win by a convincing seven goals.
First glance at the scorecard will dictate a different story to the one that played out on North Port Oval.
For three and a half quarters it was tense. Clean disposal was sacrificed for an arm wrestle of scrappy, hard-nosed footy.
While both sides laid a combined 180 tackles, it was the contested work of Williamstown that ensured they were always first to the footy. Sandringham spent the afternoon chasing Seagulls, as Williamstown finished +66 in disposals and +17 inside 50s.
The Zebras, led by outgoing coach Paul Hudson and inspired for their fallen teammate, willed themselves on all afternoon.
Kade Answerth, leader of the third quarter revival, did his draft stocks no harm with 25 disposals, eight marks and six tackles. Jack Sinclair worked hard all afternoon for 23 touches and 12 tackles, while Luke Verma also laid 12 tackles to go with his 21 disposals.
For Williamstown, it was the usual suspects. Ben Jolley was best on ground with 41 disposals and seven tackles, while Mitch Gibbons had 37 of his own. Sam Dunell starred up forward with three goals.
In his final game as coach of Sandringham, Paul Hudson had mixed emotions about the result.
“First quarter was tremendous,” Hudson said.
“We started to run and break lines and we got some goals when the wind was going at way. Then the second quarter we just didn’t capitalise, we didn’t score.”
Hudson, who bows out after two years as the helm, gave 2016 a tick when reflecting on the year that was.
“I’m absolutely stoked to have got to this point.” Hudson said.
“That’s no disrespect to the talent of the people that are playing at all, it’s just that we had more experience last year and probably in a better position to get as close as we did in the prelim.
“So to get one game less than that, I reckon it’s a bloody tremendous result for the people involved.”