For the fourth consecutive year the WC Saints and ES Bulldogs went head to head in the WAFL Grand Final. The typical Northerly was holwing out at Hutt Park, but the sun was out, and the two teams were ready to clash. After a moment of silence for those affected by the Whakaari/White Island eruption, the umpires sent the ball up to start the last game of 2019.
Playing into the wind to start, the Bulldogs were able to hold off an early Saints goal, only allowing two behinds for the rest of the quarter while slotting a goal themselves. The Saints fared well against the Doggies onslaught in the second, allowing only a couple of goals and behinds, while picking up a behind themselves. At the half the Bulldogs led 3.4.22 to 1.3.9
The premiership quarter was a tough-fought affair, with both teams grabbing two goals, two behinds each. The Bulldogs were able to carry that momentum through to the final siren, holding the Saints scoreless in the last term while putting on another 2 goals, 5 behinds. After a break in their 5-year premiership streak, the Bulldogs raised the cup once again.
Grand Final score: ES Bulldogs: 7.11.53 WC Saints: 3.5.23
It may have been the third consecutive Grand Final match-up between the Bulldogs and the Saints but it was anything but routine. It was a warm, sunny day with a sizable northerly breeze blowing down the ground when the two teams marched onto Hutt Park for the last time in 2018. The Saints were able to take the lead in the first, playing with the wind, but by halftime the Bulldogs had brought the scores level at 17 a piece in what was proving to be a grinding, low-scoring affair.
After the halftime break, the Saints came out of the blocks firing, piling on an additional 20 points before the 4th quarter, with the Bulldogs scrounging up just a lone behind in response. The skills of the Saints shone through, with clean kicking and marking setting their side well above their competitors.
Early in the 4th there was a friendly fire collision, and the game had to be put on hold for the ambulance to come and ferry one of the Bulldogs off to the hospital. Fortunately he is recovering well, suffering ‘only’ a concussion, broken nose, and requiring a few stitches for bleeding on the inside of his lip. Once play resumed, the Bulldogs mounted a massive comeback, but the Saints defence was able to hold strong. Under immense pressure of the momentum shift, the Saints were able to fend off the loss, and when then final siren went, were 3 points ahead on the scoreboard, despite the fact they didn’t score in the final term.
Final score: WC Saints: 5-7-37 ES Bulldogs: 4-10-34
After the Cup and medal presentations on the field, players and coaches from all the teams headed to the Stop Out Clubrooms for the end of season awards presentations. Congratulations to all awards recipients, and the All-Wellington Team:
League MVP: James Kusel (HV Eagles) – 26 votes, played 7 games
Leading Goal Scorer: James Terry (ES Bulldogs) – 29 goals over 8 games. Most goals in a game: 10 vs Demons, Round 6
Rising Star (under 18): Doug McJarrow (WC Saints) – 9 votes, played 8 games
Margaret Lavery Award (Volunteer of the Year): Donna Gill – Demons Manager
-All-Wellington Team- Full Backs: Alex Awatere (Demons), Pat Lovelock (Eagles), Adam Moore (Saints)
Half Backs: Sam Sherring (Eagles), Andrew Gavaghan (Saints), Andrew Bissett (Saints)
Centres: Blake Neve (Bulldogs), Tom Robby (Bulldogs), Tayne Lockwood (Demons)
On Ball: Peter Halstead (Bulldogs), Jalan Farris (Eagles), Stanley Chung (Bulldogs)
Half Forwards: James Sharp (Bulldogs), James Kusel (Eagles), Will Kempt (Saints)
Full Forwards: Phil Wakefield (Bulldogs), Luke Vincent (Eagles), James Terry (Bulldogs)
Interchange: Ray Turner (Eagles), Luke Shervey (Bulldogs), Michael Martinez (Bulldogs), Coby Dodd (Saints), Doug McJorrow (Saints), Paul Willis (Bulldogs)
Congratulations to the Saints on an impressive victory, after a hard-fought campaign in a much more competitive WAFL season. Congratulations as well to the Bulldogs on yet another impressive season. This loss will be hard to take, but will surely strengthen their resolve in 2019.
At the end of the first round-robin, each team has had the chance to play the others once, and it brings us one-third of the way through the WAFL 2018 season! As expected, the reigning premiers: E.S. Bulldogs came out of the blocks firing, but through each of the first two games they were behind at some point during the second half, with late goals just before and just after the siren sealing their wins. Can they carry this momentum through the break and into the Grand Final?
The H.V. Eagles have had a great start to the season, although Player/Manager Peter Van Kampen says there is still a long way to go with the fresh-look Eagles side. Sitting second on the ladder brings little relief though, as they know they have a target on their back that grows with each win.
The W.C. Saints are pleased to have picked up a few players in the off-season that give them better speed and endurance. This has always been a challenge, and now they feel they can compete across the field. The next step is getting a consistent line up across the park (an struggle for most of the league). Coach Gregor Kempt is “Happy with where we are at, and looking forward to the second round-robin.”
The young-gun Demons have struggled to get a win on the board, but have plenty of positives to take out of the first round-robin of the season. Competing teams have noted how the Demons are noticeably playing better as a team (ie: shepherding), working through the midfield, even against an experienced Bulldogs side, and how even when they are down on the scoreboard, they are still on the attack until the final siren. An expected influx of several senior players from Wellington GAA (Gaelic Footballers) after the Labour Weekend break could just be the injection the Demons need to make a convincing shot at playing in the Grand Final in December!
Here is the table after the first round-robin, heading in to the Labour Weekend break:
The 2018 WAFL Season is about to kick off, with Round 1 featuring a 2017 Grand Final rematch between the Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs & the Wellington City Saints at 1pm, followed by the always tenacious North City Demons taking on the new-look Hutt Valley Eagles at 3pm.
Catch the full 2018 WAFL Schedule, including important dates at the Schedule page.
Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs vs Wellington City Saints
26 November, 3:00pm, Hutt Park
The stage was set to continue the fierce rivalry that has simmered over the past few seasons. It was a warm day with a light southerly blowing down the ground, and the physicality started from the opening bounce. With the wind at their backs, the Saints looked to capitalise quickly, with the ball staying locked in their attacking half early, but the Bulldogs were able to wrestle the momentum back, winning the quarter.
The second quarter saw the Bulldogs use the wind advantage, piling on 5 goals, and holding the Saints scoreless. The halftime siren sounded with the scores set at ESB 8-5-53 v WCS 0-2-2.
Lesser teams would have called it quits at this point, but the Saints rose to the challenge, and dominated the third quarter, with the ball rarely leaving their attacking half. The Bulldogs defense was under constant pressure, and after keeping the Bulldogs scoreless, a Saints goal after the siren saw them in high spirits.
The Bulldogs bounced right back though, and even with a Saints goal in the middle of the quarter, the wind coupled with the Bulldogs experience made them clear winners by the final siren: ESB 11-9-75 v WCS 2-3-15
BOG for the 2017 Premiers was Dan Lewington who held strong in a tough ruck, and notable mention of Blake Neve (wing), who bagged 5 goals. Also notable is first year ‘pup’ Jayden Plumb (18yr) is the first recorded occurrence of a father-son playing in WAFL GF’s [Dave Plumb: GF’95 & GF’96]!
BOG for the Saints was James ‘Smokey’ Corcoran with a stellar performance in the ruck, and notable mentions for the on-ballers: Tim Parkes, Andrew Bisset, and Coby Dodds, with the experience of Simon ‘Red’ Charles and Jason Cox providing a solid foundation. Great to see the young saints Jonah Christians (16yr), and Jaydn Robson (16yr) standing up in their first Grand Final, and showing plenty of potential for the future! Although they weren’t happy with the scoreboard, the Saints felt they delivered a strong performance in the centre of the park, and at either end to suggest they are in good shape looking towards 2018.
This is the second Grand Final appearance in a row for the Saints, and the 5th Premiership in a row that the Bulldogs have won. Will the Bulldogs be able to grab a 6th straight flag in 2018, or will their dynasty be broken?