KILCUNDA-Bass has written its name into Alberton history after claiming their third consecutive premiership with a 36-point win over Korumburra-Bena on Saturday. A huge crowd turned out to the Wonthaggi Oval, the first grand final held at a non-league venue, to see the Panthers prevail yet again in glorious spring conditions. The Panthers’ fire power up forward proved the difference along with their ability to use the ball more efficiently around the ground.
The Bulldogs could do little to stop the exploits of Alberton leading goal kicker Kael Bergles who relished the faultless conditions and kicked eight goals in front of the massive crowd. After a rendition of the national anthem, the scene was set for what would be a hard fought battle between the two sides – each desperate to create their own history. If the first two minutes were anything to go by, the signs were all positive for the Panthers with Bergles launching the ball inside 50 finding his goal kicking partner Jason Wells who kicked truly at the town end to hand his side a dream start. The Bulldogs however were not rattled, answering immediately through the unusual yet effective kicking style of Chris Redl who was his side’s most effective forward all day. The respective teams were then locked in an intense battle for the next goal. Both sides had their opportunity but behinds were all that would come of the next 15 minutes of play until Jason Wells, who had a rare miss just beforehand, dribbled a great goal from the grandstand pocket. Bulldogs coach Peter Helms would have been livid at his players who conceded two red-time goals, with Bergles kicking his first after turning opponent Scott Braithwaite around to gather and goal. The damage was forgotten when Redl goaled after the quarter time siren to reduce the margin to seven points at the first change. Brett Anthony was outstanding for the Panthers all day, but was particularly good in the first half, repelling countless Bulldog entries and launching many of the Panthers’ own.
Folklore suggests that the third term is ‘the premiership quarter’ but someone forgot to tell Kilcunda-Bass, who ensured the flag was theirs to lose after flexing their muscle in the second quarter. The second quarter was underway and spectators saw the rare errors of Bergles who missed two shots early in the term before teammate Tim Smith found himself the recipient of a Bulldog turnover to kick his first for the Panthers, followed a 50m penalty and goal to Ryan Fitzgerald. The Panthers were not only playing the more attacking footy, but when Korumburra-Bena had the chance to stay in touch, they failed to take them resulting in an even more dire half time situation. Jason Wells marked a rushed kick forward in front of opponent Ash Snooks midway through the term as the Panthers started to put the Bulldogs to the sword with the likes of Anthony, Jared Attenborough, Chris Endres and Ben Law all prominent. Law and Bulldog ruckman Mark Bradley were locked in a fascinating duel, with the Panther’s high leaping a highlight of the day. Bergles once again kicked two goals in red time, the first after taking the advantage of a free kick, and the second putting the icing on great play by Ryan Fitzgerald and Ben Arnold. When Bergles kicked his third after picking the ball up off his boot lace, wheeling around onto his left foot and snapping from 35m and celebrating with two hands raised in the air, the Panthers had skipped away to a six goal lead.
The inclusion for the injured Bulldog Shaun Paterson, Tyson Morrow had the chance to cut the margin once again after the siren, but his miss saw the Panthers lead by 35 points at the major change. The Bulldogs needed to make a stand early in the third quarter and found it through a brilliant snap goal from youngster Paul Pattison from the pool pocket. Pattison was leading the way for the Bulldogs, sparking the hope which was bolstered when Morrow broke a tackle to kick another reducing the margin to 23 points. Sensing the Bulldogs were coming, Chris Endres, who was one of the best on the ground along with Bergles, threw himself back to take a courageous mark 30m from goal and kicking straight – sparking a goal for goal shoot out in the second half of the term. Young Bulldog Justin Smith then conjured something special from the skate park pocket to keep his side’s chances intact, only for that to be answered by Leigh Harrison. Harrison was one of the many Panther role players on the day, shutting down the usual prominence of Bulldog skipper Chris Urie. Morrow, Redl, Mick Urie and Cooke added goals to the Bulldogs’ score, only to be joined by goals number five and six from Bergles. The third was the one quarter the Bulldogs won for the day, booting six goals to four.
The Bulldogs were still alive early in the last quarter when Tom Mayo kicked his first, coming off hands and finding him on the goal line. The margin looked set to fall to less than two goals when Chris Urie had the ball in the goal square, but in what was a fatal blow to the Bulldogs, Jared Attenborough produced a premiership sealing tackle to stop a certain goal. The game was then over as the Panthers quickly rebounded, ending with Tim Smith who read the ball better than two Bulldog opponents to waltz in and kick a goal from 30m stretching the margin to 24 points. Rory Gilliatte, who had a great second half, then joined the Panther Party with a dribbled goal. Paul Pattison ensured he was the Bulldogs best with a late goal before the Panthers finished the day exactly as it started with goals to Jason Wells and Bergles before the official celebrations kicked in.