Bulls charge late but premiership drought continues after prelim defeat
Mt Barker’s bid to end a lengthy premiership drought will have to wait at least another year, as the Bulls’ season finished with a narrow 14-point loss to Railways in Sunday’s hard-fought preliminary final at Tigerland.
Having last won a league flag in 1996, the Bulls were desperate to return to grand final day, having lost the 2016 decider to North Albany by three points.
However they could not surpass a Tigers outfit on their home deck, despite their best efforts in a gripping second half as the Bulls came from 34 points down to mount a serious challenge.
The Tigers trailed at quarter-time before kicking five unanswered goals in the second term to take control. But they had to withstand an almighty challenge from the Bulls in the last half.
The Bulls trimmed the margin to 22 points by three-quarter-time and when goals from firstly influential ruckman Daniel Henderson and then the competition’s leading goal kicker Dionne Woods with eight minutes to play, the game was well and truly alive.
The margin was single figures, nine points to be exact, and then lively forward target Tyson Sujdovic missed a hurried kick from close range that would have made it less than one goal the difference.
However, as the Tigers eventually got the ball from their defensive end, the hardworking Kane Shephard won a free kick inside attacking 50 and jailed the shot on goal to seal the Tigers’ memorable 14-point triumph.
Kenton Gibbs was a constant problem for the Bulls, his four goals very telling in the end while the work of youngster Kyle Smith, Jack Steel who heavily tagged Jesse Wynne along with Mitch Green and Shephard helped the home side across the line, 11.9 (75) to 9.7 (61).
Bulls coach Brad Hook and his team were left to rue a number of missed opportunities, kicking four behinds in the third term before John Lee goaled from a 100m penalty.
Tigers speedster Henrick Alforque kicked a goal inside 30 seconds of the second term and moments later Woods had a moment to forget, turning opponent Haydn Sproxton inside out and running into an open goal as he turned to cheekily show his rival the ball.
Woods slammed the ball into the right-hand goal post and the home side kicked the next four goals to lead by 30 points at half-time.
“We gave everything in the fourth but the best team won,” Hook said. “We played dumb, predictable footy and we always seemed to be chasing and their run forward we just couldn’t stop.
“We had to play our best to challenge Royals or Railways and we were just not quite there in the end.”
Sam Lehmann and captain Peter Taylor were outstanding for the Bulls, defender Lee Pavlovich again dominated across half-back and Henderson was a pillar of strength all day.
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails