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VFL Tigers advance to Grand Final

VFL PF: Oh we're from Tigerland Watch the boys sing the song after the Preliminary Final win over Box Hill.

The VFL Tigers won a coveted position in the 2017 VFL Grand Final in emphatic fashion on Saturday, running over Box Hill by 65 points at North Port Oval.

Craig McRae’s side flew out of the gates in the first quarter, kicking six unanswered goals to set up the lead and never looked back as they cruised into next week’s decider at Etihad Stadium.

Callum Moore was a standout performer in the forward line, booting three goals and gathering 16 disposals, while the ever-reliable Anthony Miles, (34 disposals, nine clearances and one goal), Sam Lloyd (30 disposals, five tackles, one goal) and Jake Batchelor (15 disposals, nine marks) were also key performers.

An elated McRae spoke highly of the close connection and bond shared by his side, and highlighted the first quarter as a catalyst for the big victory.

“I thought the connection of the players was fantastic,” McRae said.

“It was so important to get the start we did. Box Hill are a fantastic side, but it was always going to be hard to come back from that."

McRae also spoke highly of Moore, whose impact has been seismic since returning from an ankle injury.

“He’s just about been our most consistent finals performer,” he said.

“He’s kicked three goals in two seperate finals, which is a fantastic sign.

“It’s great to see him out there having an impact."

It was Moore himself who got the ball rolling in the first quarter, cleverly staying on the ground in a big contest and taking a simple chest mark, which he converted for the first major of the day.

The Tiger players rallied to Moore’s side and it wasn’t long before they followed his lead, with Connor Menadue kicking truly from close range before Sam Lloyd converted a free kick from a similar distance.

Oleg Markov, Mabior Chol and Taylor Hunt put more misery on the Hawks with majors to end the quarter, while Batchelor, Hugh Beasley and Sam Darley were proving to be an almost unbeatable defence, conceding only one behind in the first term.

While Box Hill managed to start adding some scoreboard pressure in the second term, the VFL Tigers refused to allow them back into the contest, with further goals to Darley and Moore keeping the Hawks at bay.

Ivan Maric, who was a late inclusion for fellow tall and cousin Ivan Soldo, then made his mark with a towering grab at the top of the goal square, with his goal sinking hopes of a Hawks revival in the shadows of half-time.

Menadue was having a half to remember, using his pace and disposal to deadly effect, while Jayden Short’s four rebound-50s were a sign of his effectiveness in the back half.

With clear advantages in contested and uncontested ball around the ground, McRae’s side set about putting the game to bed in the third term, and showed no mercy to the side that beat them in their Round 5 clash earlier in the year.

Shaun Hampson, who had been tirelessly working against the Hawks’ Marc Pittonet in the ruck, reaped the rewards of his efforts with a soccered goal to start the term.

Tyson Stengle and Lennon then fired a quick double, before last week’s two-goal hero Shaun Mannagh added a major, continuing his stellar form in the back half of the season.

A late goal to Corey Ellis was the final nail in the coffin with a quarter still to play, however, the VFL Tigers put their foot firmly on Box Hill’s throat, keeping the margin above 10 goals for the remainder of the match.

Jacob Ballard became the 15th individual goalkicker with his goal at the start of the term, before Moore aded the cherry on top with a classy finish.

The VFL Tigers' opponents for next week will be decided when Port Melbourne and Williamstown clash in Sunday's second preliminary final.