Lions power to first premiership since 2011

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Royals celebrate winning the 2019 premiership.
Camera IconRoyals celebrate winning the 2019 premiership. Credit: Laurie Benson

The longest premiership drought in Royals’ history is over, after the Lions produced a superb third quarter that helped secure grand final success over the old enemy Railways in front of a large crowd at Centennial Stadium on Sunday.

The Lions kicked the first three goals of the game to get the jump on the Tigers in the 2019 Great Southern Football League grand final, and from there were able to control proceedings.

The Royally boys are happy.
Camera IconThe Royally boys are happy. Credit: Laurie Benson

A fighting second quarter from the Tigers had the margin back to 12 points by half-time but the home side found another gear after the long break.

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Seven unanswered goals in a dominant third quarter, powered by Alan Barnett medallist Jordan Heil, put the game beyond reach for the Tigers, who simply could not stop the Lions’ weight of numbers swarming forward.

Royals' Ryan Kinnear marks ahead of Railways’ Kane Shephard.
Camera IconRoyals' Ryan Kinnear marks ahead of Railways’ Kane Shephard. Credit: Laurie Benson

The Tigers kicked the only three goals of the final term but it meant little as their horrible grand final record against the Lions continued.

Leading from start to finish, the Lions capped a superb season with a 14th consecutive win, but the most important of them all as they recorded a comfortable 41-point grand final victory.

Under first-year coach Andrew Ruck, the Lions lifted the premiership cup aloft for the first time since 2011 to solidify their standing as the best team this season.

Railways' Kyle Smith handballs as Royals' Joel Flick tackles.
Camera IconRailways' Kyle Smith handballs as Royals' Joel Flick tackles. Credit: Laurie Benson

The Lions had a memorable day winning colts and sixteens premierships earlier but their defining moment was the league triumph which came against the same opponent they beat back in 2011.

Dave Parker, Ryan Kinnear, Taylor Powell, Mitch Curnow and Michael McGlade are the members of that 2011 premiership that again tasted victory in this year’s decider. Heil was a driving force in the Lions’ 14.12 (96) to 8.7 (55) win and was well supported by Kinnear, Ward, and three goals from Jayson Ford.

Ruck hailed his playing group for their determination to end the year on the right note, saying it felt good to have premiership success return to the Lions.

Railways' Henrick Alforque breaks clear.
Camera IconRailways' Henrick Alforque breaks clear. Credit: Laurie Benson

“It is really good reward for the players and the season they’ve had,” Ruck said. “To break that (premiership) hoodoo is great.

“It is weight off the shoulders because we’ve been playing so well.”

Heil’s third quarter, like his team, was top class and he was joined in the best players by Kinnear, who produced another great grand final display.

Tyrese Pickett-Miller again shone, Corey Ward was ever damaging off half-back, and Nathan Powell was terrific in the ruck.

Royals celebrate a goal in the grand final.
Camera IconRoyals celebrate a goal in the grand final. Credit: Laurie Benson

Steven Edwards, Stephen Beal and Coel Hunter also kicked multiple majors in the decider.

“It was a dog fight in the first half but in the quarter our half-backs started dominating and our midfield group has been fantastic.

“We had good team balance and knew it was going to take something a bit special from Railways.”

Tigers midfielders Mitch Green and Kane Shephard worked tirelessly for their side, wingman Dylan Schorer was terrific all afternoon, and Kenton Gibbs booted three goals and took some telling marks.

Railways' Kane Shephard fends off Royals' Corey Ward.
Camera IconRailways' Kane Shephard fends off Royals' Corey Ward. Credit: Laurie Benson

Kleemann medallist Logan Stubber was hampered by a knee injury, struggling to run in the second half, and friendly fire left Craig Frost off for a lengthy period with a busted nose.

Tigers coach Troy Leo said they just failed to stop the Lions’ run on in the third. “The best side won today, we had five cracks at them and beat them once,” he said.

“Our boys fought hard but nine goals at three-quarter-time is a bit hard.

Royals' Brayden Parker and Jordan Heil go for the mark ahead of Railways’ Kenton Gibbs and Lions teammate Hamish McMorran.
Camera IconRoyals' Brayden Parker and Jordan Heil go for the mark ahead of Railways’ Kenton Gibbs and Lions teammate Hamish McMorran. Credit: Laurie Benson

“There were no excuses today but we have an exciting group and this is a positive year for the club.”

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