The Woodsmen headed north on Friday to take on Zillmere for a spot in the 2017 Grand Final, and in a tight tussle with plenty of lead changes they were unable to hold on to the lead going down by 5 points after a late goal from Zillmere went unanswered.
Already missing key personnel in Sam Curtis and Andrew Thomson from the midfield, the Woodies were rocked late by the withdrawal of Tim McEvoy on game day and Matty Prior not getting up from a shoulder injury. Combined with captain Sean Toohey and Elliott Heath nursing hamstring injuries, the Woodies were testing their depth.
The Woodies started strongly and were getting on top in the middle, and despite kicking into a strong breeze in the opening quarter - were able to put the opening 2 goals on the board. However Zillmere struck back with 2 of their own before both sides kicked goals in red time to leave the Woodies with a handy 1 point lead at quarter time after kicking into the breeze.
The Eagles were good enough to kick one early in the 2nd against the breeze before the Woodies took control of the game for the rest of the quarter, but in what has been a theme in tight losses to Zillmere this year - weren't able to take their chances - missing several simple opportunities for goal and also failing to score at all despite dominance around the ball and in field position. However, in the end the Woodies took an 8 point lead into the half-time break.
Woods was a strong presence around the ball, while Davis was throwing himself at contests and his tackling pressure was superb. Sam Long and Scott Matthews in defence were well on top, as was Andrew Bell on the dangerous Zillmere full-forward. Unfortunately Paul Eaton failed to return from a shoulder injury in the first quarter, and young Ryan Christopher also didn't make it back after half-time due to injury. As a result, with 2 men down the Woodies knew they were in for a tough 2nd half.
Once again, the Woodies were strong into the breeze in the 3rd quarter and after 2 of the opening 3 goals of the quarter - held a match high 14 point lead with 10 minutes to go in the quarter. However, in what would prove to be a telling burst - Zillmere put the breeze at their backs to good use and kicked 4 unanswered goals to take a 10 point lead into the final break.
The final term started with promise as the Woodies kicked the opening 2 with the breeze at their backs to take a 3 point lead. The match then became an arm wrestle with both teams failing to hit the scoreboard for 10 minutes, but the Magpies enjoying field position advantage on the back of the breeze. However, there was a twist in the tail as the Eagles pushed forward and kicked 2 behinds to make the margin just 1 point with 3 minutes to play and a draw was well and truly on the cards.
As the clock ticked down, Zillmere pushed the ball forward for one last shot and a hurried kick appeared headed out of bounds or potentially for a behind to tie up the scores before a vicious sideways bounce Shane Warne would be proud of managed to sneak through for a goal and put Zillmere in front with less than a minute on the clock. The Eagles managed to lock the ball in the middle to their credit and the siren sounded to the despair of a gallant and undermanned Woodsmen side.
Zillmere 3.2 - 20 | 4.4 - 28 | 9.6 - 60 | 10.8 - 68
Woodsmen 3.3 - 21 | 5.6 - 36 | 7.8 - 56 | 9.9 - 63
Best: Davis, Long Woods, Baldwin, Moore, S.Matthews
Goals: Fuentes 3, Garland 2, Woods 2, Moore, Baldwin 1