THE Phillip Island Bulldogs are on target for their second straight premiership, after securing a spot in the 2019 grand final following their 24 point victory over the Tooradin-Dalmore Seagulls.
In front of a large crowd – cars were lined up along Hade Avenue outside the Bass Recreation Reserve, the Bulldogs were geared up for action from the first bounce.
Going against the prevailing wind, the Islanders knew they were in for a tough term.
Immediately the Island surged forward with Cam Pedersen, hands first on the ball in the ruck.
And with great teamwork, it quickly fell into the clutches of Keith Robinson to go for goal just 40 seconds in, yet registering a behind.
The Seagulls’ Nic Lang slotted a major to settle his team’s nerves but in response, Billy Taylor kicked the reply on the run.
At seven apiece, the Bulldogs’ Brodie Anderson also went for a goal on the run, but it bounced off the woodwork.
Pedersen was under intense pressure for most of the quarter, clearly part of the Seagulls’ game plan, and it wasn’t rare to see 4:1 Tooradin players to the former AFL utility.
The Seagulls secured another goal, this time to full forward Andrew Dean while Phillip Island tried and tried again, missing three out of four scoring shots, no thanks to the wind.
But they were able to contain Tooradin-Dalmore, keeping them goalless for the remainder of the quarter to only trail by four points at the first break.
Coach Beau Vernon gave an inspirational quarter-time speech, but stressed they needed to capitalise in the second term and stop Tooradin-Dalmore from hitting the scoreboard.
A reinvigorated Bulldogs went out and did just that.
Their show of dominance followed through for the quarter, keeping the Seagulls goalless while they added three majors on the board through Keith Robinson, Cam Pedersen and in the final two minutes, Zak Vernon.
With Brendan Kimber and Jamie Youle starting to be prominant the ladder leaders flexed their muscles.
Despite struggling to convert at times – succeeding in three out of nine scoring shots – they had the upper hand going into the main break, with their opponents facing a 19-point deficit.
The third term was to be make or break for Tooradin-Dalmore and an early goal to Lang set them in the right direction.
However Phillip Island continued to keep them in check and a goal from Youle maintained their grip on the contest.
Two goals late in the term by Kris Sabbatucci, including a long bomb goal after the siren, gave the Seagulls some hope with just six points separating the teams at the final break.
The challenge inevidently proved futile as the professional Island unit stood up and froze the Seagulls out in the fourth quarter.
A clever snap by Leigh Warne stretched the margin to 13 points at the five minute mark and a further goal to Alex Redmond sealed the deal.
Tooradin-Dalmore have shown plenty of fight throughout their inaugural West Gippsland season and now head to Koo Wee Rup with Cora Lynn between them and another shot at the reigning premiers.