Grand Final Review – Under 19s Division One
Written by Michael Shillito
Saturday dawned bright and sunny at Kanebridge Oval for the final day of footy for the year. Four Grand Finals were on the line. The first of the day was a clash between Sydney’s best emerging football talent with UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs taking on North Shore Bombers in the Under 19s Division One Grand Final.
The Bulldogs had been the standout team in this division during the season, going through the home and away rounds undefeated and comfortably making their way through the Major Semi-Final. While the Bombers, after finishing second, lost their Qualifying Final before bouncing back through the Minor Semi-Final and the Preliminary Final to make it to the big dance.
The Bulldogs were the hottest of favourites, but it was the Bombers who burst out of the blocks and made the early front running. Making the centre break to start the game, a scrap on the forward line finished with Tom Pope being on hand to scramble the opening goal after just one minute. A long torp by Nick Armstrong got the Bombers their second; and a clever snap by Matt Riley saw the Bombers open up a 20 point lead. And deep in time-on, the ball went to a one-out marking contest. Tom Pope was unable to hold the mark, but recovered quicker than his Bulldog opponent to gather the crumbs and tap it through an open goal.
The Bombers were 25 points ahead at the first change, with the Bulldogs unable to manage a goal in the first term. But the Bulldogs didn’t take long to get off the mark in the second term, when Ethan Hart took advantage of a defensive error and slammed the ball through the big sticks. But it was a rare highlight for the Bulldogs, as the Bombers lifted their intensity and were on top around the ground.
Nathan Brading was left unattended inside the forward 50 to goal and restore the quarter time lead. And another loose forward took advantage when Cooper Wright ran into an open goal. Oscar Bird was interfered with in the goal square for the easiest of free kicks. And when Kale Gabila took a courageous mark under pressure deep in time on, the Bombers had opened up a shock 44-point lead at half time.
The Bulldogs were shell-shocked. They had been the standout team all season, but now they were under siege. They had to hit back. Throw caution to the wind. Take risks. Attack at all costs. They had to lift, and they did.
It took less than a minute for Jordan Endemann to snap quickly for the Bulldogs’ second goal. An errant kick-in after a behind saw Hamish Dunstan mark and goal. And when Endemann marked 20 from home and kicked truly, the margin was back to 24 points and the quarter was not yet 10 minutes old. Suddenly the Bulldogs had a spring in their step and the momentum was running their way. Still a long shot, but maybe they could steal this after all.
Under pressure for the first time, the Bombers had to steel themselves in defence as the Bulldogs kept coming. But the defenders held firm. And some ill-discipline would cost the Bulldogs their momentum, as a careless 50 metre penalty handed Luke Giacometti a steadying goal for the Bombers. Endemann’s third goal of the quarter deep in time-on cut the margin to 28 points; but the Bombers looked to have enough of a buffer to hold the Bulldogs out. The Bulldogs had thrown down the challenge during the quarter, but the Bombers had hung tough after the early onslaught and held their challengers at bay.
When the high-flying Oscar Bird marked and goaled in the opening minute of the final term, the issue was beyond doubt. This was North Shore’s premiership. They would go on with it in the final quarter, with a return of five goals to two extending the final margin to 48 points.
Kale Gabila took out the best-on-ground medal for the Bombers, while Luke Giacometti and Sean Netting also featured prominently.
The Bulldogs were well served by the efforts of Byron Middleton, Ethan Hart and Jordan Endemann. But it was a disappointing day for them. A slow start would cost them dearly, and a 44-point deficit was too much ground to make up. In the first half of the third quarter they were full of running and caused the Bombers some anxious moments, but coming from so far behind meant they had to take risks that didn’t come off.
But this was North Shore’s day. Perfectly timing the day to play their best footy, and putting on a great display on the day that mattered most. After such a strong regular season at North Shore, it was the youngsters that ensured the club would have some silverware to show for their efforts.
With the quality of footballers that were on display in this match, Premier Division players from both clubs will be looking over their shoulders as this young talent look to make their mark in senior footy next year.
North Shore Bombers 4.3 8.5 9.9 14.13 (97)
UNSW-ES Bulldogs 0.2 1.3 5.5 7.7 (49)
North Shore – O. Bird 2, K. Gabila 2, C. Wright 2, M. Gugger, H. Cooper, N. Armstrong, T. Pope, N. Brading, L. Giacometti, L. Puncher, M. Riley.
UNSW-ES – J. Endemann 3, M. Sciberras 2, H. Whitaker, E. Hart.
North Shore – K. Gabila, L. Giacometti, S. Netting, A. Beveridge, H. Cooper, C. Wright.
UNSW-ES – B. Middleton, E. Hart, J. Endemann, H. Dyson, H. Whitaker, A. Kalaf.
At Kanebridge Oval, Saturday 10th October 2020.