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Saints go through hell to reach premiership heaven

By Anqi Wang

AT LAST, Glen Eira has a flag to fly.

The Saints were in heaven after beating Hawthorn by 47 points in the Division 3 grand final on Sunday to secure their first-ever premiership, and complete one of footy’s great rags-to-riches stories.

Glen Eira won five games last season, just one the season before that, and none in 2013. There was a period when the club went 700 days without winning a game.

But 2016 was a new dawn for the Saints, who linked with neighbouring club ­Monash Gryphons to pool their administrations and players. It proved a dynamic mixture.

Former Swinburne University assistant Shane Kelly was appointed coach and Glen Eira – dubbed the Kelly Gang – started winning and didn’t let up.

Kelly said Sunday’s flag ­triumph was a great footy story, giving hope to every battling club.

“To bring it together was just simply terrific,’’ Kelly said. “Anything is possible.’’

Saints captain Julius Waras Carstensen soars high for a mark. Picture: Stuart Milligan

The grand final at Coburg City Oval was hotly contested – Kelly described it as brutal – but Glen Eira edged away to a 15-point lead by halftime.

That increased to 24 points by the last change. The Saints then outscored Hawthorn 4.2 to 0.3 in the last term.

Glen Eira midfielder Matt Harris was awarded the medal for best-on-ground, while Andrew Barrett was the surprise packet, slotting five goals from a forward pocket (he usually plays on a wing).

Glen Eira Saints fans look nervous. Picture: Stuart Milligan

Kelly was full of praise for Ash Carey, who played a crucial role to negate Hawthorn team of the year wingman Travis Whittle.

Anthony Cvek, in a back pocket, was another key ­figure.

Yes! Lachlan Pound celebrates a last quarter goal for Glen Eira. Picture: Stuart Milligan

“Our mechanisms for how we wanted to play from November last year came through,” Kelly said.

“There was a moment in the last quarter where we ­actually played keepings-off for nearly four minutes.

“We’d been training for that little scenario since ­November.’’

Glen Eira celebrate their win moments after the siren. Picture: Stuart Milligan

Glen Eira captain Julius Waras Carstensen cast a proud figure as he and Kelly thrust the trophy aloft. Waras Carstensen, 29, is a one-club player who has been through the Saints’ darkest times. But this season, he won the league best and fairest and is now a premiership captain.

Glen Eira coach Shane Kelly and captain Julius Waras Carstensen celebrate their win. Picture: Stuart Milligan
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