By: Daniel Cencic
One of the most significant days on the calendar makes its mark on the Eastern Football League for the first time on Friday.
Morton Park will be abuzz for the EFL’s inaugural Good Friday clash as Blackburn hosts Balwyn.
For Blackburn senior coach Kon Karavias and Balwyn’s Marty Pask, the feeling is mutual as both clubs head into the match excited to be playing on the big stage.
“The club’s done really well in conjunction with Balwyn to be able to get a Good Friday game up and running – it’s a great result for the EFL and the teams,” Karavias said.
“I’m appreciative of getting that opportunity.”
“It’s a fantastic opportunity the League has afforded our club (and) it’s something that the club’s really excited about from the top right down,” Pask said.
The Panthers are coming off a 33-point win over Norwood in Round 1, while the Tigers suffered a 34-point defeat to arch rival Vermont.
Karavias is expecting a fired-up Balwyn outfit on Friday afternoon.
“They’re going to come to play that’s for sure,” he said.
“I can’t imagine there would have been too many times in the last decade that Balwyn would have lost two games in a row.
“By all reports, (Balwyn) had a little bit of a sluggish start last week so they’ll be ready to go.”
For Pask, the Good Friday occasion also presents an opportunity to make amends for last week’s loss.
“Round 1 didn’t go to plan and the way that we would have liked it, but that’s the best thing about football – six days to rectify a few things and come out and join an occasion like this and do your best,” he said.
Karavias is wary of the quality that the Balwyn list brings, and is aware of the Tigers’ dangerous options up forward.
“You’ve always got to be on your game with them – they’ve just got such firepower,” he said.
“Gobbels, Hughes, Chivers, and they’ll spread to a couple of others around them.
“We’re going to have to be on our game to avoid a shootout.
“If the game ends five goals to four in our favour, we’ll take that any day of the week over a shootout.”
Blackburn’s list comprises one of the most organic line-ups in Division 1 with a number of its junior players making the transition to the senior ranks.
Karavias has full faith in his charges as they take on the EFL’s juggernaut.
“If you have a look at our list that’ll run out (on Friday), I reckon a good 10 of them will be junior players and another five to eight of them will be those who’ve been with us for the last three to four years – Fagan, Clay, Otten and those types of guys,” Karavias said.
Pask understands the challenge of the Panthers’ list, with VFL premiership players Xavier Murphy and Ryan Bathie, along with former Box Hill Hawk Julian Soccio also among the line-up.
“We understand that they’ve managed to recruit a few players and some have come out of the TAC Cup competition as well,” he said.
“We’ve definitely done our homework (and) we’re very wary of Blackburn and how they would like to play football.”
For the players of Blackburn and Balwyn alike, the concept of Good Friday footy has been a winner.
“There’s excitement at their end that they get to play in a standalone game on a big stage in front of hopefully a decent crowd,” Karavias said.
“We get to experience a home and away game in a finals-like atmosphere,” Pask said.
“There’ll be a fair crowd, there’ll be a fair bit of attention in the game (and) there’s no doubt the boys are excited to go out there and play – we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Two weeks into his coaching career with Balwyn and Pask will have experienced the club’s heated rivalry with Vermont along with the challenge of Blackburn in the EFL’s inaugural Good Friday clash.
“You coach, you play, you do everything to be challenged and we’re extremely confident in the guys and what they need to do,” Pask said.
“From my personal perspective, I think that’s what’s great about the League – there’s some great rivalries (and) great teams which have had rivalries for many years that have been built up for a while.
“(It’s) the closeness of the competition this year – every week you’re going to have a challenge and a test.”
B: B. Mcintyre, D. Campisano, M. Thorp
HB: P. Contin, R. Bathie, M. Dunn
C: J. Windle, S. Macaulay, J. Hammond
HF: L. Conca, A. Banks, J. Kenworthy
F: X. Murphy, J. Soccio, C. Clay
R: T. Watkins, S. Hudson, B. Daniher
Int: T. Faulkner, D. Vizzarri, A. Fagan, M. Otten
In: A. Fagan, B. Mcintyre
Out: L. Parker, J. Grierson
B: J. Gottliebsen, K. Pendlebury, J. Weatherald
HB: T. Gilchrist, T. Simpkin, E. McCutchan
C: F. Ray, S. Cross, L. Frazer
HF: L. Bain, J. Gobbels, R. Gilchrist
F: C. Sanfilippo, G. Chivers, M. O’Regan
R: J. Meesen, J. Simpkin, S. Tregear
Int: S. Van Der Haar, J. Chirgwin, S. De Soysa, R. Watts
Emg: L. O’Connell, D. Hughes, J. Wright
In: S. Van Der Haar, L. O’Connell, J. Wright, S. De Soysa
Out: T. Roach