By JESS WEBSTER
The 2017 season produced some memorable highlights capped off by an incredible Grand Final in Sydney. We’ve taken a look at some of the best highlights this year as we count down to 2018.
The engineer manufactures victory
Aspley and Redland produced an early-season thriller packed with highlights in Round 6 when the two Queensland rivals battled it out at Graham Rd. It was the day Clay Cameron flew high to take the NEAFL Mark of the Year in a match which saw several twists and turns. In the end, it was Aspley ruckman Will Wolbers who was the hero, slotting a goal with only moments left as the Hornets clinched a 12-point win.
An inspirational return
The attention of the nation descended on UNSW Canberra Oval in Round 14 when defender Alex Johnson played his first football game in 1936 days. It was in the second quarter the Swans took control of the contest with 10 goals to none. But not only did the term play a major hand in the context of the result, it played host to one of the most heartfelt moments in recent Australian sporting history when Johnson banged home a goal. He collected the Sherrin just inside the 50m arc and from a slight angle put a right-foot snap to boot to prompt an ambush of red-and-white jumpers, in which every one of his 17 teammates on the field flocked to the defender like bees to a hive.
The Shepheard leads his flock
It was a case of nothing to lose for Southport when they ventured to Alice Springs to take on NT Thunder in Round 13 in a ninth versus fourth encounter. The Sharks were men on a mission, causing one of the upsets of the season when they led from start to finish for an unlikely 53-point victory. Hamish Shepheard booted six majors and Jordan Keras was dominate with 43 disposals, but it was a clear rise in effort from all 23 players which made the victory memorable.
An after-the-siren finish
Francis Kinthari lived out every young footballer’s dream in Round 14 against the GIANTS at Spotless Stadium. No more than 10 points separated the sides in a frantic last quarter, and had a two-point advantage after Harry Perryman missed a shot on goal at the 28-minute mark. But NT Thunder regained possession, and went the length of the field in time for Francis Kinthari to mark 45m out moments before the siren. He coolly slotted the goal to finish an incredible match.
The makings of Oskar Baker
Aspley was on a five-match losing streak entering Round 20. Holding on to sixth place by percentage only, the equation was simple for the Hornets: Win their last two matches at home against Southport and NT Thunder, or risk missing finals for the first time since 2012. The clash against the Sharks was the coming-of-age for Oskar Baker, who booted four goals in a best-on-ground performance as Aspley kicked 10 goals to four in the second half to run away 45-point winners.
Sydney University breaks records
Sydney University coach Tom Morrison guided the Students brilliantly as the ticked off numerous club records this year, including their best win-loss record (14-4) in the minor round season. One of those matches also created more history when the Students hosted NT Thunder in Round 19. Sydney University produced their biggest ever score, plus their biggest winning margin, when they put on a clinic against the Territorians to win 25.17 (167) to 7.7 (49).
A new champion is crowned
Southport midfielder Jordan Keras joined the competition’s elite after winning the NEAFL MVP Award over retiring NT champion Cameron Ilett. Keras dominated season 2017 in the engine room for Southport, equalling the record for most clearances in a game (17) in Round 2 against Sydney, on his way to averaging 35 disposals and 10 clearances per match – the highest averages on record in the NEAFL for a player featured in more than half the season. The star on-baller polled in 16 of his 18 games, four of which he polled eight or more votes. Keras led the competition in Champion Data ranking points and was also among the NEAFL’s best players in their representative win over Tasmania in Hobart.
The epic conclusion
A premiership-winning season is often full of highlights, but you can perhaps look at Brisbane’s bookend matches to really sum up their season. In Round 1, Brisbane beat Sydney by 26 points – the first time they had defeated the Swans since the 2013 NEAFL Grand Final. It was a precursor to the season they were about to achieve. By the final match of 2017, Brisbane beat Sydney for the third time this year by four points – incredibly the fourth consecutive NEAFL Grand Final decided by less than a goal. In doing so, Brisbane won its third NEAFL flag – making the Lions the most successful premiership club in the competition’s history.
Check out some of the best NEAFL TV highlights below
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