In 1999, the Springvale Scorpions were crowned VFL premiers. It was their fourth premiership in five seasons.
Now known as the Casey Demons, the club’s undergone a relocation, realignment, and renaming, officially operating as Melbourne’s reserves.
And after 23 long years, they again sit atop the VFL tree following a 10.10.70 to 5.8.38 defeat of the Southport Sharks in Sunday’s Ikon Park decider.
It was a fitting reward for the dominant Demons, who lost just one game all year and finished the home and away season with a resounding percentage of 167.3.
Casey would go into the clash as firm favourites, but the Queensland-based Southport is an organisation that wins, having claimed 22 senior premierships since their inception in 1961.
And the Sharks’ bite was on full display early as they nailed three of the first four goals to go into quarter-time leading 3.3.21 to 2.2.14.
Billy Gowers had a golden opportunity to extend his side’s advantage early in the second term, but skewed his shot running towards an open goal. The miss would prove costly, with Southport going goalless for over a half as the Demons wrestled back control.
Once Casey hit the lead through Mitch Brown’s major in the second, they never looked back, taking a six-point advantage into half-time as torrential rain took hold.
The treacherous conditions ensured the remainder of the match was a slog, with Casey grinding their way to a 15-point advantage at the final break.
Richmond premiership player and four-club AFL journeyman Jacob Townsend was the man to relieve Southport’s goal drought in the 29th minute of the third term, slotting his second of the game.
The heavily outnumbered Sharks faithful were hoping for a fast start to the last quarter if there was to be any hope of a comeback, but it wasn’t to be, with Jake Melksham’s fifty-metre bomb clearing the cluster of goalline-situated fingers by a matter of inches to extend Casey’s lead.
Melksham would put Southport to the sword late, splitting the sticks three times in the final term alone and finishing with a match haul of four majors from his 16 disposals. He was among the Demons’ best, finally getting his hands on a premiership medallion having been an emergency for last season’s AFL flag.
As the precious time ticked away and the odds stacked against Southport, their composure with ball in hand diminished and mistakes crept into their game, hopes of a maiden VFL premiership slipping from their grasp.
Rhys King snapped a consolation goal for the Sharks as tempers flared on the boundary, but it was far too little, far too late.
As the game clock ticked over 25 minutes, chants of “premiers” started to ring out among the Casey cheer squad.
Melksham nabbed the game’s final goal as Casey punished Southport in transition, much to the delight of the majority red and blue crowd, who by that stage were in celebration mode.
Speaking on Channel Seven post-game, Melksham was unsurprisingly thrilled with the premiership.
“To come back after a disappointing week last week and play in a grand final and win one, I was never gonna let that opportunity slip so it’s great to be here,” Melksham said.
“The last two or three grand finals [Casey] have lost, so we’ve had strong seasons in the past, but to be able to capitalise on a great year and have that real one-club mentality from the senior list right through to the VFL list is great.”
The comfortable 32-point victory was befitting of a Demons side rarely challenged all season; a side who won their qualifying final by 47 points, and their prelim by 51.
Skipper Mitch White was awarded the Norm Goss Medal for best-on-ground following his 29-disposal, 13-tackle performance.
White was drafted by Melbourne in 2015 and managed four games across three seasons before being delisted, but has been a heart-and-soul contributor at Casey ever since, taking over the captaincy in 2019. He shifted into the midfield this season and flourished.
Casey’s spiritual leader James Munro also impressed, finishing with 21 disposals, 17 tackles and a goal.
Speaking on White and Munro, Demons coach Mark Corrigan was rapt with their contributions to the club.
“They’re stalwarts at this club and today for them is why they play football… they’re so consistent week to week, they’re amazing people, they’re comfortable to be themselves, and they just help everyone else,” Corrigan said.
It was a deserving flag for Corrigan, who was named to coach Essendon’s VFL side in 2020 before COVID-19 saw the season cancelled and Corrigan let go without coaching a game. Just two years later, he’s now a VFL premiership coach.
As for the fiercely loyal Munro, he was undoubtedly moved by the occasion, tears flowing post-match.
His synopsis of the flag and what it meant to him was short and sweet, yet beautiful.
“There’s no place like home, that’s what Casey Fields is to me and I’m just rapt to become a premiership player.”
Match in a minute
Southport narrowly the better side early after racing to an early lead, with three of the first four goals
Casey win back the ascendancy in the second term, taking a 4.5.29 to 3.5.23 lead into half-time
After being held goalless for the entire second term, Southport don’t score another goal until the 29-minute mark of the third quarter, with Casey taking control
A consistent downpour of rain from the second quarter until the final siren turned the game into a slog, with Casey ultimately grinding out a 10.10.70 to 5.8.38 victory
Casey skipper Mitch White claims Norm Goss Medal for best-on-ground with a 29-disposal and 13-tackle performance
Casey’s Jake Melksham also impressed with a four-goal showing