AFL Sapphire Coast Grand Final Wrap
Division 1 men’s
The Merimbula Diggers have secured the Sapphire Coast AFL premiership on Saturday night.
Facing up against the Narooma Lions at Merimbula’s Berrambool Oval it was the visiting club firing some early goals to put the Diggers on the back foot in the opening quarter.
However, the Diggers secured critical points in the second quarter to close the margin to just a single point before taking charge in the second half to win 8-4-52 to 5-5-35.
Caleb Higgins was named best on ground for his skilful and speedy efforts through the middle in a clash where pace became critical with the contest hitting fever pitch from the outset.
Narooma had been the best attacking roster of the season, but Merimbula shaped as the best defensive squad and the adage that a good offence comes from a strong defence was proven with the Diggers turning away scoring chances for the Lions and rallying the ball back to their own attacking forwards.
The gap in the scoring was still narrow when the Diggers took a three-point lead by the end of the third quarter, but it was a fourth-quarter thriller that sealed the deal for the home club under lights in front of a capacity crowd.
The Tathra Sea Eagles women’s roster have secured their maiden premiership.
In their fifth straight appearance for the SCAFL flag, Tathra forward Peta Warden leaping to an early mark and subsequent goal set the tone for a relentless Eagles attack.
On the back of a massive performance through the middle, the Eagles put forward attacking options in both pockets and in the forwards to pepper shots at the posts, going on to win the flag 6-11-47 to 0-1-1.
The score did not fully reflect the quality of play with Bermagui making some breakaway runs, but unfortunately for the Breakers many came from deep within their own half and the Eagles had time to reposition, while the Eagles backline created a nearly impenetrable barrier around the goals.
Tathra’s containment of the Bermagui on-ballers was so complete that the Breakers were left scoreless for the opening half of play and found just a solitary behind in the back-half of the grand final.
With Tathra up 30 points at the open of the third quarter, the Breakers found some more presence around the ball to stem the flow of points, but the Eagles were still getting the better of possession and forward pressure.
Cymmon Parker and Anneliese Hughes were pivotal through the middle for Tathra, while Dakota Taylor had a huge presence in later stages of play to ensure play stayed in Bermagui’s defensive end.
Flanker Darby Hayes had an enormous second half, bombing home a pair of goals and also turning away late charges by the Breakers to earn herself the best on ground award for the grand final.
Sea Eagles five-year-old pundit Lenny Taylor had predicted Darby’s stellar performance in a pre-game video shared on the club’s Facebook.
Greasy conditions prevailed for play with low hovering clouds threatening raid and a cold variable wind that increased through play where the Eagles simply had the better of the ball with Elouise Russell and Tyra-Lee Palmer providing some great marks in the trying weather.
While both clubs have been fast, agile and skilful all season, it was an increased physicality under the guidance of coach Mark Coulton that drove an eagerness to wrestle for the ball in the contest that helped Tathra come up with a weight of possession.
Club vice-captain Elouise Russell said the team were stoked to bring home the silverware saying “the hard work has finally paid off”.
Russell said the flag has given the Eagles plenty of hunger for next season as well. “Now that we have won one, we’re focused on going for another,” she beamed.
Division 2 men’s
The Eden Whalers took home their first premiership flag for five years since going through the competition undefeated in 2015 with a stunning win over the Bermagui Breakers on Saturday.
The Whalers will unfurl the 2020 premiership flag next season after defeating the Breakers 8-12-60 to 2-6-18 in blustery and cold conditions at the Berrambool ground.
The Whalers opened the account quickly after some superb passages of play with good hand-balling, while the club looked confident throughout play.
The Eden players were fearless, throwing themselves into the contest where they showed strength under the high ball, while immense speed through the middle provided good options to push play forward.
The Breakers stood up to the challenge, but looked a little rattled after the early pressure from the Eden outfit, even after taking solid marks a handful of kicks were belted out quickly, while better options went wanting.
The greasy conditions didn’t make anything easier and long range scoring chances for Bermagui also wobbled off the damp boots to keep the club goal-less until late in play.
The goal-scoring dam broke for Bermagui early in the final quarter, but the Whalers were already holding a commanding 42-point advantage.
Meanwhile, Eden seemed to have an easier time managing the conditions, especially with some massive shots on goal by Liam Wilkinson that essentially removed Bermagui’s back line from the equation, handily kicking a couple from outside the circle.
There were some spectacular contests in the middle that aren’t fully reflected in the score line and players from both teams battled hard for the ball, which also saw tempers nearly boiling over a couple of times in the later stages of play.
Some familiar names stood up to be counted for Eden with Spencer Timms, Jack Gray, Wilkinson and Declan Simonson counted among the best on ground.
However, top honours went to Luke Grewar who was named best on ground.
Out of the Bermagui stables, Javana Fereti, Rocco Lagana, Sebastian Hannebery and Nick Lazzaro were prominent throughout play.
While the Bermagui Breakers missed out on the silverware in both the reserves and ladies contests, the club did secure wins in the under 14s and under 16s grades.
In their fifth respective grand final appearance, the under 14s completed the fabled ‘three-peat’ when they defeated the Merimbula Diggers 8-4-52 to 4-5-29.
Tyge Matters from Bermagui was named best on ground.
The under 16s wasted no time in their clash, claiming a comprehensive 14-1-85 to 4-8-32 result over the Pambula Panthers.
Joint best and fairest winner Curtis Jack was named the best on ground for the under 16s.
The host club Merimbula took home their second trophy for the day in the opening clash when the Diggers under 12s defeated Narooma 6-3-39 to 1-2-8.
Merimbula young gun Mason Hayes was named best on ground.
Written by Jacob McMaster – Bega District News
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