By Sam Watson
THE Centrals Trinity Beach Bulldogs have been blessed with plenty of South Gippsland talent in 2021.
The club, which competes in the AFL Cairns competition, finished third on the ladder after 16 games this season, with a helping hand from some familiar local faces.
One of those was three-time premiership Phillip Island Bulldog Jack Taylor who swapped the forward line for defence this year.
Taylor clearly had no issues adjusting to the backline and he was named at centre half back in the team of the year.
Joel Piera and Jack Keating, best mates of Taylor, also went up to Cairns where they were both solid contributors to Centrals Trinity Beach.
Whilst Taylor wasn’t in the forward line, another dominant force from South Gippsland was – Luke James.
The former Kilcunda Bass and Korumburra Bena superstar had another brilliant year at full forward, booting 51 goals and jagging goal of the year, in what was a feat many local footy fans have almost come to expect from James.
And Ben Eddy, who was a premiership teammate of James’ at Kilcunda Bass and a star for Wonthaggi Power, was also a superb performer in the squad up north.
After finishing third, with nine wins, six losses and a draw in the seven-team competition, the Bulldogs took on the Cairns City Lions in the first semi-final two weeks ago.
Funnily enough, the Lions were coached by a former one-time Kilcunda Bass Panther and Melbourne star Aaron Davey.
The match, which was played at Cazaly’s Stadium was a fiercely contested one, with the Lions edging out to a four-point lead at half-time.
Unfortunately for our local stars, the Lions broke away in the third quarter, getting out to a 22-point lead heading into the final term.
Centrals Trinity Beach fought back hard in the last quarter, putting four goals on the board, but Cairns City did just enough to hold them off and won by 14 points.
The following week, the Lions were able to continue their form and they handled the Port Douglas Crocs very comfortably to book their spot in the grand final.
And on Saturday, the Lions completed their finals fairy-tale with an 11-point grand final win over red-hot flag favourites the Cairns Saints.
But it wasn’t without a bit of drama.
With five minutes to go in the last quarter and the premiership still right in the balance, the lights went out at Cazaly’s Stadium, causing sheer commotion amongst the players, coaches, and supporters.
Earlier that day, before the power issues, another former Kilcunda Bass Panther, Mitch Whitham, played in the reserves grand final where he was named third best on for the Cairns Saints.
Unfortunately for Whitham, the Saints were knocked off by the South Cairns Cutters by two points.
It’s not yet known if the other five South Gippsland guns have decided what they’ll be doing next season, but they certainly won’t have any issues readjusting to the cooler climate if they decide to come back.