IT JUST doesn’t get any more dramatic than this.
With their respective seasons on the line, the Brisbane Lions and Aspley produced an old-fashioned classic in the VFL’s Battle of Brisbane, and it went down to the last split second.
The Lions were clinging onto a one-point lead in the dying stages, having retrieved a 24-point deficit at the 12-minute mark, with Tom Fullarton shaping as the hero after breaking the deadlock with a set-shot behind on 33 minutes.
In one last roll of the dice, Aspley legend Matthew Payne earned a free kick for holding the ball 55m out and handballed it to Jacob Allison, who heaved a long bomb to the goal line.
Matt Hammelmann reached above the pack, pulled in the mark and snapped the goal in one motion as the siren sounded, with all eyes turning to the umpires as they held a conference before correctly ruling that time ran out a split second before the ball hit the star spearhead’s hands.
The result was a critical one-point victory to the NEAFL reigning premiers that took them to 3-3 and within percentage of the top eight while consigning Aspley to a heartbreaking fifth-straight defeat and almost certainly ending its finals hopes.
Earlier, it was the Lions who made the running as Henry Smith kicked two late goals and the unlucky Rhys Mathieson responded to his AFL demotion with an outstanding display in the middle, to give their team a 13-point lead at the first break.
But the Hornets responded and dominated the next two and half quarters, kicking four goals to two in each of the second and third terms to take a 13-point lead of their own before the pulsating final stanza.
Two goals in the first three minutes from Lion Connor McFadyen brought it back to a point before Aspley kicked the next four – including Hammelmann’s fourth and fifth – and looked the goods with that 24-point gap.
But Archie Smith (16 disposals, 31 hitouts) kicked a team-lifting goal in his 100th state league game and the Lions booted three of their own in seven minutes.
Former Lion Jono Freeman gave the Hornets some breathing space, but McFadyen kicked his third of the term and Carter Michael levelled the scores before Fullarton’s miss gave the visitors the lead and set up the heart-stopping finish.
Mathieson finished with 36 disposals for the Lions, Connor Ballenden took 10 marks and Charlie Bowes joined McFadyen and Henry Smith with three goals, while Ryan Bastinac had 36 in a terrific display for Aspley, finding support from Corey Lyons (28), Payne (25), Hammelmann’s five goals and Jack Rolls’ three.
Southport produced a powerhouse final quarter to overrun Sydney by 15 points at Tramway Oval and move to the top of the ladder.
The Swans took control after a first-quarter arm-wrestle and led for most of the day with their strongest team of the season, taking a 16-point advantage into the final term after Ben Ronke marked his comeback game with a goal just before the siren.
But Sydney was powerless to respond when the Sharks stepped it up a notch in the last quarter, with the Queenslanders kicking three quick goals to take the lead and responding to Marc Sheather’s third major with three more to win going away.
Jacob Dawson was the standout for Southport with another terrific showing, racking up 35 disposals and kicking two goals to keep his team in a match where Sydney had a 54-46 per cent possession advantage, but lost the inside-50s 54-47 as it conceded a game it should have won.
Lukas Webb (20) was Dawson’s only teammate to have 20 disposals, and only three Sharks managed 10 kicks, but the supreme team effort won them the points.
Lewis Taylor was easily the Swans’ best player with 23 possessions, nine marks and three goals, while Ryan Clarke compiled another 30, Nick Blakey took the game on to have 26 touches but could have been a bit cleaner with his disposal, Dylan Stephens had 23 and a goal and Hayden McLean took seven marks.
SATURDAY, JUNE 5
Sydney 10.13 (73) lost to Southport 12.16 (88)
Aspley 14.13 (97) lost to Brisbane Lions 14.14 (98)