Riley Budd and Nathan Richards celebrate their Elimination Final win. Photo: Matt Corby/NEAFL.

By JESS WEBSTER

 

Canberra stunned the NEAFL competition in season 2018 as a young, plucky Demons side came within one victory of a fairytale Grand Final appearance.

Here is the Demons’ season in review.

 

By the Numbers

Wins: 11
Losses: 9
Draws: 0
Ladder position: 4th
Percentage: 104.67
Last year: 7th

Best-and-Fairest Winner

Mitch Maguire

Top 5 NEAFL MVP votes

80: Mitch Maguire
50: Alex Smout
28: Mitch Hardie
25: Isaac Taylor
17: Angus Baker

Snapshot: 2018 had just about everything for Canberra as they exploded on to the finals scene for the first time. Record winning streaks, historic results – of both the high and low variety – more rising stars than you can poke a stick at, and a huge tilt at a Grand Final appearance that made the competition stand up and notice.

Highlight: There seemed to be endless highlights for Canberra – their record highest winning margin against Redland in Round 3, first ever wins against Sydney University and Aspley, and a first win in a final. But if we had to pick one highlight from the year, it would be an achievement many didn’t think would happen in 2018. Canberra were to battle NT Thunder in Darwin in Round 16 for a chance at an eighth consecutive victory, and they were made to work for it after heading in to the final term behind on the scoreboard. With five goals to two in the last, not only did the Demons win a thrilling encounter in the Top End, but they soared to the top of the NEAFL ladder for the first time in a significant moment in the club’s short history.

Lowlight: They say what goes up, must come down, and unfortunately Canberra experienced the highs and lows of football within a week. Their eight-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt against Southport following their win over NT Thunder. The Demons actually led by five points at quarter-time until a ruthless Southport sent them packing. The Demons were outscored 22 goals to five after quarter-time to lose by 103 points.

Star Power: This season belonged to NEAFL Rising Star winner Mitch Maguire, who challenged the NEAFL MVP leaders all season as well as taking out the Demons’ best-and-fairest award to well and truly throw his name in to the mix for mature-age AFL Draft selection. Elsewhere, forward Mitch Hardie was a well-deserved selection in the NEAFL Team of the Year alongside Maguire, with Sam Martyn, Alex Smout, Tom Highmore, Isaac Taylor, Alex Paech and Angus Baker among those who caught the eye.

What’s Next: Can you put a limit on it? Canberra had five NEAFL Rising Star nominees in 2018 – Maguire, Paech, Hardie, Baker and Jarrod Osborne – as their list continued to unearth new gems. Throw in the likes of Highmore, Lucas Meline, Jack Powell, Nathan Richards, Tom Faul, and Jacob Turner – who all would have found new levels of confidence this year – Demons fans can feel pretty excited for what’s to come in the next few years.

 

 

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