Bulldog Mark Griffin gets a handball away as Luke O’Donoghue closes in during Saturday’s Senior preliminary final at Inverloch. rg17_3614
By Mitch Guy
PHILLIP Island will contest its first Alberton Grand Final after disposing of arch rival Kilcunda-Bass to end the quest for their fourth consecutive premiership.
It was another beautiful day for football at Inverloch in a finals series that has been blessed with outstanding spring weather.
Both teams made a couple of changes from last week with Lachie Cleeland and Will Van Diemen missing for the Island and Xavier Reicha and Ben Arnold on the sidelines for Kilcunda-Bass.
The opening stages saw little between the two teams as both struggled to penetrate their forward 50.
Kilcunda-Bass ruckman Ben Law was up against Mitch Price, with the talented Panthers midfield led by Ryan Fitzgerald, Chris Endres and Jess Attenborough matched by the equally impressive Island onballers in James Taylor, Brendan Kimber and Michael Duiker.
Bulldog Mark Griffin had the tough assignment on the dangerous Kael Bergles and Darcy Johnston ran with Panther goalsneak Jason Wells.
Down the other end, Panther Kele Asa Leusa had the job on lively forward Beau Runnalls.
It was Kilcunda-Bass who drew first blood when Rory Gilliatte was awarded a free kick and converted from 35m followed by another goal through Bergles to give them the early lead.
But the Island had come to play and their repeated efforts were rewarded when Duiker kicked their first, before Ben Van Brummelen threw his foot at the ball and it dribbled across the goal line to give the Bulldogs a 1 point lead at quarter time.
In a blow to Kilcunda-Bass’ chances, big man Ben McKay hobbled off with a hamstring injury leaving them one man down for the remainder of the match.
Phillip Island came out hard after the first change with Van Brummelen snapping his second before Duiker’s set shot sailed through for another goal.
Kilcunda-Bass had the reply at the restart of play when Endres received a free kick and 50m penalty and had no problems from long range.
The tempo of the match started to slow midway through the second quarter with both defences holding strong.
Jacob Dakin broke away for the Panthers and kicked a long goal to bring them within striking distance.
Asa Leusa wore forward Beau Runnalls like a glove for most of the day and limited his impact.
Although Runnalls left an impression on the match when he won a foot race towards goal and reached the footy metres before the line to boot through the goal, followed by another goal through Scott Riordan as the Island started to gain the ascendancy.
The Island’s hard work was spoiled when Tim Smith popped up to kick a goal deep into time on to bridge the gap to 14 points at the main break.
The Bulldogs made the perfect start to the second half, winning the centre clearance and sending the ball forward where Runnalls handballed to Van Brummellen to run into an open goal.
James Taylor was in everything for the Island and when he received a free kick for high contact he had no issues extending the Bulldogs lead with a beautiful goal close to the boundary.
Bergles was playing a lone hand up forward for the Panthers and kept them in touch with the reply but James Taylor was in the action again when he kicked another.
A big hit by Law on Bulldog Tom Cole caused uproar from the large Phillip Island crowd and sparked a minor scuffle on the social rooms wing.
Phillip Island were slowly wearing the reigning premiers down but Leigh Harrison was giving his all for the Panthers and found Bergles on the lead who slotted another to keep them in touch.
Cole recovered from the earlier clash and dished off a sweeping handball to find James Taylor in space who steadied and kicked a running goal.
The Island looked to be in control with Josh Docherty marking anything that came his way across half back and Johnston providing rebound out of defence.
A juggling mark from the in-form Riordan saw another Island goal before Bergles responded with a mark on the lead which seemed to spark the Panthers out of a rut.
As Kilcunda-Bass gained momentum, the Island’s Cole chased down his opponent with a big tackle on the wing to loud applause.
This tackle led to Price marking close to the boundary as three quarter time beckoned.
The big man, who was dominant in the ruck and around the ground, slotted the major to give his side a commanding 30 point advantage at the final break.
Van Brummelen continued his stellar day up forward when he sealed the win in the opening stages of the final term.
Goals to Bergles and Jason Wells, who was blanketed by Johnston throughout the match, did little to rain on the Bulldogs’ parade.
The Island cruised to victory as James Taylor, Duiker and Kimber ran rampant and Van Brummelen finished with five goals.
Harrison, Damien Holmes and Bronson Interlandi battled manfully for the Panthers but the Bulldogs simply had more contributors across the board.
It may be the end of an era of dominance for Kilcunda-Bass who will miss the grand final for the first time in four years.
Phillip Island will now attempt to break a 24-year premiership drought when they tackle Dalyston in the grand final this weekend at Meeniyan.