THE Meeniyan-Dumbalk United Thirds looked the team most likely to win Saturday’s Under 18 grand final after they’d cleared out to a 15-point lead at half time and then held on to a three-goal lead at the last change in a low-scoring affair. But despite their dominance on the ground, they failed to put Korumburra-Bena to the sword when they had the chance in the third quarter, coming up empty from three or four genuine opportunities to goal.
They left the door ajar for the young Bulldogs and with the talented Tom Wyatt running on to the loose ball, before kicking a brilliant running goal in the opening minutes of the last term, they surged through in numbers to win the match and the premiership with a thrilling last quarter display. Up until that point, the Bulldogs had struggled to penetrate the Demon’s defences with Joel Winderlich an absolute standout, taking more than a dozen marks at half back, and supporting a strong defensive contingent which included Nick Moore, James Broadway, Jason Riley and the likes of Jake McMillan and Riv Carroll dropping back off the ball. But it wasn’t to be. Once the young Bulldogs got a run on, they proved impossible to stop. Seconds after Wyatt had kicked the team-lifter, Ash O’Neill joined the party with another and the tempo was raised another notch. The Bulldogs’ on-ballers Mayo, Harris, Wyatt and O’Neill started to win the centre breaks and the stoppages over Winderlich, Olden, Campbell, Broadway, Wilson and co and turned contested ball stats quickly into scoring opportunities. Great work by Auddino on several occasions got the ball forward, O’Neill, Jesse Harris and Allen were attacking well and Jack Harris took a shot after a fine mark and a 50 metre penalty. His kick didn’t score but soon afterwards Hopkins and O’Neill, on the lead, combined to put them on equal terms with a goal.
MDU’s Riv Carroll and Brayden Pickersgill were among the few trying to stem the tide but a great passage of play by Korumburra-Bena, with O’Neill, Dorling, Walker and brilliantly Hopkins linking up with Jesse Harris in the goal square gave them the lead. They didn’t look back. O’Neill was on fire and Auddino creative but MDU’s Wilson, McMillan and Moore were standing up strongly with the result that Wilson earned a shot from the angle but a point resulted. Via Hansen, O’Neill and Wyatt, the Bulldogs transferred the ball to the other end where Wyatt got on the end of some fine work by Jesse Harris to kick the sealer. It had been a five goal to nil last term by the Bulldogs after they’d only been able to muster two goals in the preceding three but they’d managed to hang in there defensively all that time and when the opportunity came, they took it. At the presentations afterwards a delighted Bulldogs’ coach Neil Edwards commiserated with MDU, noting they’d done themselves proud, coming through two hard finals to reach the grand final; a gallant effort. Final scores: Korumburra-Bena 7.7.49 def MDU 5.8.38.