MATCH REVIEW: Men’s Division Three Grand Final
Written by Michael Shillito
North Shore Bombers vs. UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs – Blacktown ISP on Sunday 15th September
The Mens Division Three premiership was on the line on Sunday morning, in a clash that saw North Shore Bombers take on UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs. It was a low-scoring scrap that would go down to the wire.
North Shore’s numbers were so strong in 2019 that they fielded two teams in this division. The Bombers team finished second after the regular season, but strong wins in the Qualifying Final and the Major Semi-Final saw them go through to the Grand Final with the week off.
UNSW-ES had to go through three sudden-death finals to make it through to the big dance. But the Bulldogs’ defence was in strong form and they had gone through the Minor Semi-Final and the Preliminary Final without conceding a goal. Their miserly defence would again feature prominently in this clash.
The Bulldogs hadn’t conceded a goal for two weeks, but the Bombers immediately broke that drought this time with Harry Newbery pouncing on a loose ball and slamming the opening goal through with barely a minute on the clock. The Bulldogs quickly got the goal back, with Jonathan Gates finding an opening and snapping truly.
After such a quick opening, the game quickly tightened up. Defences tightened, numbers moved back to close any gaps. The physical pressure intensified, and the turnovers followed. The ball drifted up and down the wings until the siren sounded. One goal apiece, scores level at the first change.
The Bulldogs took the lead after two minutes in the second term, with Troy Nicoll being ridden high and paid a free kick 30 from home. Making no mistake, the Bulldogs had their second goal on the board. But the Bulldogs were unable to add to their score again for the quarter, and incursions into their forward 50 were rare.
As the quarter drew on, the Bombers were lifting around the midfield, and were looking the stronger side. But some absolute sitters were missed, and for all their possessions they were unable to manage a major score. The Bombers were looking the better side by half time, but still found themselves trailing by two points.
But even when they were unable to complete the finishing touches to their work in the second term, the Bombers emerged the stronger side when the third quarter got under way and reward for effort would soon come. It came from the impossible angle, but Max Minack made no mistake with his checkside and the Bombers were back in front.
The Bombers’ goalkicking radar was still letting them down, and the Bulldogs made them pay as Joe Hansen took advantage of an incursion into the attacking 50 to lead and mark in front of the scoreboard and calmly put the goal through. For all the Bombers’ work, they had an inaccurate return of 2.8 and the Bulldogs were a point ahead. But Jack Bateman found a quick reply, on the end of a chain of short passes. And two more behinds game the Bombers some breathing space, seven points ahead at the last change.
But this game was far from decided. The Bombers were visibly tiring, and had nothing more to give. Nothing but desperate defence, and they were forced into plenty of that in the last quarter as the Bulldogs kept coming. But time and again, the Bombers would keep the Bulldogs at bay. Smothers, saving marks, golden fists, whatever it took.
The Bombers did not score in the final quarter, and the Bulldogs kept coming. Two behinds, and the margin was less than a kick. And with just seconds left on the clock, Oliver Bruer had the chance to be the premiership hero for the Bulldogs, with a set shot 30 metres from home. But his shot sailed agonisingly wide. A behind, the Bombers staying four points ahead. And that’s how it stayed till the siren sounded.
Scenes of jubilation for the Bombers, but despair for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs had come so far, having made it through three finals wins to get this far and so nearly snatching the game at the death. Their finals series, with two matches in which they didn’t concede a goal, and then to only concede three major scores in the Grand Final, was extraordinary. They have achieved much this season; but the ultimate prize would elude them. Declan Delahunty, Jonathan Gates and Tom Kaldor were the standouts, but the entire team played their part in this contest.
For North Shore, this was a result to savour. A strong, close-knit squad, this was the culmination of some hard work throughout the season. They had to stand firm against the Bulldog onslaught in the last, but stood their ground and got it done. Harry Newbery was best on ground, while Dallas McKinnon and Laurence Smith also featured prominently for the Bombers. But again, it was a solid team effort on the day to get the result done and bring some silverware back to Gore Hill.
North Shore Bombers – 1.2 | 1.6 | 3.10 | 3.10 (28)
UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs – 1.2 | 2.2 | 3.3 | 3.6 (24)
North Shore Goals – M. Minack, H. Newbery, J. Bateman
UNSW-ES Goals – J. Gates, T. Nicoll, J. Hansen
North Shore Best – H. Newbery, D. McKinnon, L. Smith, A. Selvarajah, D. McCarthy, S. Millar
UNSW-ES Best – D. Delahunty, J. Gates, T. Kaldor, O. Bruer, C. Elphick, J. Ryder