Stephanie Leahy and Molly Kneebone were honoured

RESPECT: Tailem Bend footballers and netballers lining up for a minutes silence before taking in Imperials at Johnstone Park. Photo: William Bailey.
RESPECT: Tailem Bend footballers and netballers lining up for a minutes silence before taking in Imperials at Johnstone Park. Photo: William Bailey.

On a picture-perfect Saturday, Imperials and Tailem Bend played off for the Leahy-Kneebone Cup in memory of Stephanie Leahy and Molly Kneebone, two young ladies tragically killed in motor vehicle incidents.

Both sides wore guernseys to honour the young ladies; the Blues donned a white strip with purple and green bands around the arms, while the Eagles strip forgo the usual yellow sash, instead replacing it with a purple and green sash.

A touching moment before the game saw both sides line up in honour and a minutes silence was held before a kaleidoscope of green and purple balloons were released skyward.

The game started with the Blues captain Phil Smith deciding to kick to the northern end of the ground which for today was renamed the Molly Kneebone end and the goal pads fittingly were re-coloured in green .

The Eagles would be kicking into a strong wind towards the southern end of the ground which today was named the Stephanie Leahy end.

The goal pads were decorated in Stephanie's favourite colour: purple.

The Blues were in desperate need of a win, while the Eagles have been vastly improved this season.

At the first bounce, the Eagles went straight into attack and registered the first score of the day with a behind.

Both sides settled well early, but found themselves turning the ball over too easily .

Jack Merino slotted the first goal of the game from about 30 metres out on a tight angle.

The goal was the result of a good build up of pinpoint passes from the Eagles.

Shaun O' Brien got the scoreboard moving for the Blues with a point that resulted from Daniel Girdham's long ball out of the centre.

Jacob Rance combined with Bradley Oats and Dylan Hollitt took a mark 45 metres out.

The ball was centred to Mitch Lienert, but he sprayed his shot on goal. It skewed off Lienert's boot and sailed out on the full.

The Eagles defence was rock solid, not allowing the Blues to break through.

The Eagles rebounded with aplomb out of defence which from a turnover saw Scott Welsh kick a goal from a relatively easy position.

The Blues got their first major through Sam DeMichelle, who goaled from 40 metres out on a slight angle.

Late in the first quarter the Eagles held sway over the Blues by a goal.

The Blues intensity lifted, typified by Blues big man Matthew Williams producing a solid smother to stop the Eagles entering deep into attack.

At quarter time the Eagles led by 7 points 2.2 to the Blues 1.1.

The Blues got the scoreboard moving in the second quarter with two minor scores, wasting several early opportunities.

The Eagles were more productive with their chances, booting the opening goal of the second quarter through a strong mark 15 meters out.

They quickly followed up with another major, when former Adelaide Crows champ Scott Welsh received a 50 metre penalty putting him directly in front of goal.

The Eagles completed their hat-trick when Mackenzie Hansen marked and ran into an open goal.

Leading into half time the Blues needed to up their work rate and make their tackles stick to stay in touch with the potentially dominant Eagles.

The Blues hit back on the scoreboard when Sam DeMichelle kicked a goal as a result of Michael Sumner being yellow carded and DeMichelle receiving a 50 metre free kick.

Daniel Girdham was standing tall for the Blues.

At half time the Blues trailed the Eagles 5:3 to 3:6

The start of the second half saw a stiff breeze prevailing favouring the Molly Kneebone end of the ground

Within the first minute of the second half Jack Merino had kicked a goal from the initial centre clearance.

Sam DeMichelle was proving a focal point up forward for the Blues and kicked a goal from 25 metres out to keep the Blues in striking distance.

The Eagles didn't take long to respond: vice-captain Steven Clay put through a major at the Stephanie Leahy end of the ground.

They quickly follow up with another, when Scott Welsh received a free kick for a Blues defender falling into his back.

In what was the play-of-the-day, the super-evasive Clay Mackenzie Hansen who managed to slip the ball through to Welsh who couldn't finish the fine piece of play with the result it deserved, registering a minor score.

The Eagles stretched their lead to 27 points when Steven Clay kicked another straight through the big sticks.

Sam DeMichelle reduced the margin for the Blues, kicking another major and continuing his impressive afternoon.

They say the football bounces in strange ways and this was proven true when Scott Welsh launched the ball skyward and the most opportune bounce landed in Clay’s lap, leaving his the Blues defender no chance. 

Clay finished the play off to stretch the Eagles lead at three-quarter time to 10.5 to 5.7.

It would take the Blues absolute best quarter of football for the season if they were to prevail and, with them kicking to the Stephanie Leahy end of the ground, they would be hoping that Stephanie might be watching over their efforts. 

They started the final quarter well, recording a minor score to reduce the margin to 26 points.

But it was the Eagles who kicked the first of the final term, when Jack Smedley put through an easy one from the goal square.

The Blues responded quickly and, with Bradley Oats taking a strong mark on the 50 metre line, he produced a fine kick to score a much-needed goal.

They continued peppering the goals, but failed to capitalise until Sam Mobbs kept the Blues in touch when he received a free for in the back, and put through a major.

Sam DeMichelle kicked the next two goals for the Blues, reducing the margin substantially.

The Eagles kept calm late in the game and, when Steven Clay produced a quick goal in response to the Blues concerted effort to snatch a come from behind win, the Eagles managed to get the lead out to a match-winning position.

The final scores at Johnstone Park saw the Eagles victorious over the Blues, in what was a fine game of football honouring the memories of Stephanie Leahy and Molly Kneebone. 

Jack Merino was awarded the MAC Medal as best on ground. 

Tailem Bend 12.10 defeated Imperials 9.9.