By Gary Stocks
Outside of finals football there probably has not been a more important day in recent history for the North Beach Football Club. Cometh the day, cometh the club.
The stakes were high in virtually every grade and the result was six wins from seven games, all victories coming against finals rivals or those challenging to displace the Beach in the top half of the table.
The exception on a terrific day for the club was the E2 team which has battled bravely with diminishing numbers over the last few weeks and was grossly undermanned against top team Willetton on Saturday. But Peter Panagopolous and his warriors continue to chip away and look forward to several players returning in coming weeks.
That loss aside, it was a remarkable day for the club with some outstanding victories, three pulsating performances coming at McGillivray Oval against University.
The A-Grade combination scored a crucial victory against the Scholars, leading all day and hanging on to a brilliant one-goal win.
Anxious to shut down University’s outstanding running game required a disciplined effort, particularly from the half-forwards and midfield and it came. After Uni made a strong start, North Beach locked down on several key running players and it developed into an absorbing battle.
Jamie Sajich was outstanding, Ben Heap provided run and aggression on a wing, Beau Witheridge set the tone for the levels of discipline required and Jimmy Nunan, Kyle Riemann and John Turner provided the energy and verve to unseat the ladder leader.
After a couple of sub-standard performances, coach Michael Pratt demanded a more concerted and effervescent performance from his charges and it came.
In difficult conditions, an icy easterly blowing across the UWA sports fields, the Beach turned up the heat with veteran Chris Perkin leading the way. His attack on the contest was outstanding and with Andrew Langsford producing one of the best games of his career, the Beach was ready to make a stand.
Defensively Matt Irvine provided strong rebound, former A-Grade captain Chris Pearce enjoyed his first outing for the year and half-forward Dan Leishman was lively and entertained with a five-goal bag.
University had sat above the Beach before this contest and North Beach certainly responded to the challenge.
The mood was set for the day away from home, when the Phil Scott Colts rallied from the brink to leap-frog University into the top five.
Down by virtually four goals at the last change, North Beach produced an irresistible final term to eke out a crucial four-point win. Defeat would have seen the Tigers slip two games adrift of the top five and with so much at stake the players responded with an amazing last 20 minutes.
Set alight by hard-working midfielders Ryan Antonelli and Alex Barden, the Beach charged to victory when defenders Glen Pullellla and Ben Sweeny stood tall, Gus Davis was lively on a wing in conjunction with skipper Kris Hackett, while Shane Fullwood, Ned Melvin, in his first game for the club, Mark Foreman and Jordan Kickett provided reliable targets in attack.
At Charles Riley Reserve, the tone for the day was also established by the Colts when the Brett Jones team easily eclipsed University, the team sitting one position below them on the ladder.
With Chris Mead and Reece Thompson dominating the key attacking positions and kicking 14 goals between them, the Beach was always in control on the way to an 89-point romp.
Riley Carter, James Foley and Jake Carter were also prominent in a game dominated from start to finish.
The D1-Reserves and D1-Grade followed the example of the colts and scored important victories against Wesley Curtin.
The D1-Reserves showed great resolve and came home strongly in the last quarter despite a mounting injury toll. They kicked three goals to none in the final term, all of them coming from Novak Smith (aka Jesus) who hobbled off the interchange bench to play a key role in the triumph.
In addition, Hayden French was lively up forward and kicked three goals, while Tim van Der Kraats and Michael Missikos were also important.
In the D1 clash North Beach established their superiority early and while the second half petered out to some extent, the game was never going to be surrendered to Wesley Curtin.
Michael Collins provided strong rebound from half-back, Jarrad Vennus was lively throughout while Scott Brown and Josh Barber were strong attacking focal points in conjunction with Sam Keeley. Other significant contributions came from Michael Quartermaine, Jay Carroll and Curtis Hogg.
North Beach 4.1 7.3 9.5 10.9 69
University 3.1 5.1 7.5 9.9 63
Goals – North Beach: Potts 3; Paap, Turner 2; Wilson, Riemann, Heap 1.
Best – North Beach: Sajich, Heap, Witheridge, Nunan, Hack.
North Beach 1.3 3.6 7.8 10.12 72
University 2.0 4.1 4.4 5.6 36
Goals – North Beach: Leishman 5; Perkin, Irvine 2; Hall 1.
Best – North Beach: A Langsford, Irvine, Leishman, Clarke, J Robinson.
North Beach 4.3 8.4 10.8 10.10 70
Wesley Curtin 0.2 2.1 3.4 4.4 28
Goals – North Beach: Keeley 5; Barber, L Brooks, Brown, Marie, Vennus.
Best – North Beach: Collins, Vennus, Brown, Barber, Quartermaine, Carroll.
North Beach 2.2 3.2 5.4 8.7 55
Wesley Curtin 1.1 4.2 6.2 6.2 38
Goals – North Beach: Smith 4; French 3; Perris 1.
Best – North Beach: Hocking, van Der Kraatts, Smith, Missikos.
Willetton 20.10 (130) defeated North Beach 2.3 (15)
Best – North Beach: Elliott, M Braccia, Miller.
Phil Scott Division
North Beach 3.2 5.6 6.7 11.10 76
University 3.0 5.0 10.4 11.6 72
Goals – North Beach: Foreman 3; Kickett, Golisano 2; Cosgrove, Fullwood, Waymouth 1.
Best – North Beach: Antonelli, Barden, Golisano, Davis, Kickett, Fullwood, Melvin.
Brett Jones Division
North Beach 6.4 9.6 14.9 18.11 119
University 1.1 3.3 3.4 4.6 30
Goals – North Beach: Mead 8; Thompson 6; Christie, Collins, Gomer, O’Brien.
Best – North Beach: Mead, R Carter, Thompson, J Carter, Foley.