A pair of goals from both sides kept things fairly level for the first period, as the Saints’ Josh Morgan-Ranui showed his class, opening things up for tall forward Alex Fakatoumafi inside 50. The margin was only a goal at halftime, however, thanks to some clever ball movement by the Suns, particularly midfielder Mitch Ryan (two goals) and forward Robbie Mostert. The northerners led by a mere eight points at three-quarter time.
The fourth quarter was the moment of truth for both sides, and ultimately, the Suns took advantage of their opportunities, booting six in the final term to give themselves a 35-point victory. Forward Will Kempt (two goals) was named best on ground.
Final: Suns 14.8.92, Saints 9.3.57
Best on ground (Suns): Will Kempt
Best on ground (Saints): Blake Williamson
Leading goalkickers (Suns): Robbie Mostert (4), Mitch Ryan (2), Will Kempt (2), Jackson Clince (2), Peter Van Kampen, Joel Brown, James Kusel, Layton Cahill
Leading goalkickers (Saints): Charlie Dixon (4), Josh Morgan-Ranui (2), Alex Fakatoumafi, Michael Boyce, Clayton Walters
Game two featured the top two sides -- the Giants and Crows -- and it was just as exciting as expected. Despite the Giants’ explosive forward line, the Crows were the ones who started off fast from the first bounce. Lewis Gill and Alastair Maisey both slotted goals early in the first, starting off a back-and-forth match that resulted in a virtual stalemate at halftime.
The Crows’ backline was under siege all afternoon due to Giant superstar James McKenzie, who had already booted three majors by halftime. But those expecting a high-scoring, wide-open second half would be disappointed.
Both sides turned up the pressure and kept the scores low, with the Crows ultimately scoring a massive 10-point win, giving the ladder-leading Giants their first defeat of the season. The Crows’ Sam Burdett was rock-solid in defence, and the Christchurch native earned a well-deserved best-on-ground nod for his efforts.
Final: Crows 7.15.57, Giants 7.5.47
Best on ground (Crows): Sam Burdett
Best on ground (Giants): Nick Bailey
Leading goalkickers (Crows): Lewis Gill (2), Zac Maio, Brad Wade, Alastair Maisey, Jevaan Croft, Chris Mundell
Leading goalkickers (Giants): James McKenzie (3), Wayne Sullivan (2), Nick Bailey, Finn Moffat
Round 9 Recap
It was a Saints vs Crows clash in the final round of AFLNZ premiership action, and the Crows were left short-handed in the midfield, missing star Kiwis Te Kope Tipene-Thomas, Jay Johnson, and Shane Leat. With that trio gone, Saints captain Michael Boyce took full advantage, helping his side dominate the clearances and even kicking two goals himself.
The Saints led by nine goals at the main break, as high-flying forward Alex Fakatoumafi kicked a record 10 majors in the contest (four of them in the first half). It was deja vu for the Crows backline, as Fakatoumafi had booted five goals against them back in Round 6. Ultimately, the Saints avoided the wooden spoon and also scored an AFLNZ premiership record 155 points in their win.
Final: Saints 24.11.155, Crows 5.4.34
Best on ground (Saints): Alex Fakatoumafi
Best on ground (Crows): Ryan White
Leading goalkickers (Saints): Alex Fakatoumafi (10), Dan Howie (3), Pat Gibbs (2), Michael Boyce (2), Nathan Hayes (2), Jackson Hemmingsen, Misilifi Faimalo, Josh Morgan-Ranui, Nico Donnell-Brown, Andriu Secu
Leading goalkickers (Crows): Zac Maio (3), Ty Smith, Joseph Alesich-Tamariki
The Giants were already outright AFLNZ premiers after Round 7, but the subsequent upset loss to the Crows had left a bad taste in their mouths. In the final round, the Giants righted the ship and gave themselves a boost heading into the offseason with a 92-point dismantling of the Suns.
James McKenzie kicked five goals on the day for the winning side, cementing his name in AFLNZ history with a premiership-record 31 goals on the season. The Giants were only four goals ahead at halftime, but the outcome was never truly in doubt as they cruised to a big victory. Key midfielder James Dakin was influential, and James Bowden (three goals) combined with Josh Cunliffe (six) for an offensive flurry that kept pressure off McKenzie in the forward line. Dakin received best on ground for his efforts.
Final: Giants 23.12.150, Suns 8.10.58
Best on ground (Giants): James Dakin
Best on ground (Suns): Matthew Bennetts
Leading goalkickers (Giants): Josh Cunliffe (6), James McKenzie (5), James Bowden (3), Sam McKenzie (2), Sean Andrews (2), Tayne Lockwood (2), Elliott Bennetts, Wayne Sullivan, Andrew Johnston
Leading goalkickers (Suns): Dan Otley (4), Will Kempt (2), Matt Colless, Reyne Westbury
That’s a wrap on the 2018 AFL New Zealand premiership season, but there’s still plenty of other footy-related action on the other side of the Tasman.
On April 22nd and 24th, the New Zealand national team will take on the NAB AFL Academy side at Westpac Stadium in Wellington. It’s an excellent opportunity for the Kiwis to show their skills against some highly-touted Aussie youngsters -- many of whom could be playing on the MCG sooner rather than later. On the 23rd, the AFLNZ Combine will take place, also in Wellington at the ASB Sports Centre.
Additionally, the Mornington Peninsula juniors league is sending three separate teams -- a U14 boys side, a U16 boys side, and a women’s team -- to compete against some AFL New Zealand academy prospects (also on the 24th). It’s a special occasion for all involved, particularly during the buildup to Anzac Day.