Lions clinch finals spot

Jai Thompson played his 200th game. (Facebook)

Matt Hewson

Leopold secured a place in the GFL finals after a dramatic come-from-behind win over the Tigers at Grovedale last weekend.

The Lions fell behind early after captain Marcus Thompson won the toss and elected to kick against the breeze, and despite controlling much of the play in the second quarter went into the half-time break trailing 5.4 to the Tigers 6.5.

Grovedale capitalised on the wind advantage again in the third quarter to push the margin out to 26 points, but a fourth-quarter blitz from Leopold saw the visitors keep the Tigers scoreless and snatch the victory, winning 11.12 (78) to 10.5 (65).

Lions coach Garry Hocking said he and his team had achieved one of their season’s goals by guaranteeing themselves finals football.

“I think that’s any team’s target, to qualify for finals and maybe create a chance for premiership success,” Hocking said.

“That’s what we wanted when we first came together at the start of the season, to get back to playing finals.

“We’ve ticked the ‘qualify’ box and we’ll use the next two weeks against South Barwon and North Shore to try to get ourselves going and build momentum.”

Jai Thompson, who celebrated his 200th game for the Lions, was named best on ground for his role in the midfield, and Hocking had nothing but praise for the former premiership captain.

“He had a big impact around the footy and throughout the game with his ability to win the ball in tight, in the contest,” he said.

“He’s a stoppage beast. The centre square was quite muddy, you didn’t know who was who in there at some points.

“But his ability to stick his head over the footy and get the ball going our way was significant, and decisive for us in the end.”

Hocking said his players had rallied around Thompson and were determined to come away with the win for the midfielder’s milestone match.

“I reminded them, have Jai in the back of their mind with any contest, any spoil you go for because it’s his 200th,” he said.

“It was a significant milestone for him and the footy club, so for us it was all about Jai and making sure we honoured him with a win.”

Hocking said he hoped his players would reverse their trend of starting slowly and take the last quarter energy into the beginning of this week’s game against South Barwon.

“All year we’ve been the best fourth quarter team, but for us it’s all about trying to have a better start to a game,” Hocking said.

“I think we haven’t been on our toes early enough in games, so the whole message this week will be about taking last week’s fourth quarter into this week’s game.

“South Barwon will be playing for pride, they’re a talented and well-coached team so we’ll need to be on our toes.”

Newtown & Chilwell had a decisive victory over North Shore to get within four points of league leader St Mary’s, who had a bye on the weekend.

Geelong West Giants came back from two goals down at half time to beat Bell Park at home by 26 points.

Lara claimed its second win of the season, defeating St Albans 13.9 (87) to 4.12 (36), while South Barwon, Colac, St Joseph’s and St Mary’s round 16 fixtures have been deferred to Saturday, August 20.