Bulls were at the gate but Kangas leap to glory
Not for the first time the fittingly named premiership quarter would prove pivotal in deciding the premiers.
While the battle for the 2016 Great Southern Football League premiership would be the closest in the league’s history and not decided until the final minute, in a contest of limited opportunities, North Albany would make the most of theirs.
The defending premiers had trailed from the opening bounce against their newest challenger, Mt Barker gunning for their first flag in two decades, but made their move in the premiership quarter to set them on track for an epic three-point win and resulting flag hat-trick.
The Bulls looked set to build a healthy break kicking with the wind in the third term before Kangas defender Nick Barrow produced a flying spoil to deny the home side another forward entry.
Barrow took the ball out of the arms of the waiting Daniel Dalby and drove the ball forward against the wind which had developed into a wall to overcome.
Both sides had failed to score to the northern end in the first two quarters until Barrow followed up his earlier good work to nail a 40m goal on his non-preferred to reduce the margin to two points and temporarily halt the Bulls momentum.
Only two goals would be scored at the northern end of the ground, both to the Kangas in a decisive period in the third term.
While the Kangas made the most of their opportunities, the Bulls squandered theirs.
The Bulls could hardly miss in the second semifinal but that same accuracy avoided them when they needed it most.
Key forward Brenton Edwards missed two gettable set shots, captain Sam Lehmann streamed towards goal and missed also as the Bulls peppered the goals without luck.
Despite a late major to Adam Leed, to push the margin to 19 points, the Bulls’ dominance could only yield 3.7 in a wasteful term in which they lost Dalby to a hamstring strain.
The Bulls had emerged as the Kangas greatest challenger but were left pondering what else could be done as the defending premiers stormed home in the final stanza of the gripping encounter to again deny a grand final opponent in gut-wrenching fashion.
Despite holding a 19-point advantage at the final change, the Bulls could not hold the dam wall as the Kangas charged inside 50 on 17 occasions to five.
Adam Ditchburn produced a smart crumbing goal in the opening minute to signal the start of a territory battle.
Defender Regan Lloyd found himself in unchartered territory in attack when he intercepted an errant handball from opponent Ryan Ballard and snapped inboard to find Kleemann medallist Matt Smith who’s set shot reduced the margin to seven points.
Under an unrelenting surge from the Kangas, the Bulls defence survived a nervous moment when Jake Becroft swooped to goal but Lehmann was awarded a free kick on the last line of defence to stifle the celebration.
However there was nothing stopping captain Graham Ross who snapped to level the scores after another Bulls defensive blunder.
From then on it appeared the Kangas’ flag as Alan Barnett medallist Jack McPhee put the Kangas in front for the first time in the match at the 23-minute mark with a behind, which was followed up by two more minor scores before the final siren sounded.
There was nothing clinical, nothing clean but the contest was relentless again.
The Bulls had the advantage of kicking with the wind in the opening term, meaning the Kangas would come home with it.
With no signs of early nerves on the big stage, the Bulls led by 27 points at quarter time sparked by Lehmann and goalsneak John Lee before the second quarter belonged to Luke Cameron who jailed the Kangas’ only three goals of the quarter as the visitors swung the momentum and stifled the home crowd support.
McPhee, Cameron, rebound defender Alec Haskins, elusive wingman Nathan Crudeli and teenage ruckman Stewart Davies led the way for the premiers while Lehmann produced a captain’s game for the Bulls and rugged full-back Adam Tissott again kept Daniel Parker goalless.
Jubilant Kangas coach Craig Dew said his side’s third quarter was the “turning point” in the Kangas becoming only the fifth team to win a grand final in enemy territory since 2000 in a red-letter day for the club.
“We were confident at three-quarter time,” he said.
“We knew if we could spread the ball, run and carry we could run over the top.
“They are a quality team and they hung in and hung in like we did in the third.
“They have six WAFL players in that team, that is as good a country footy team as I have seen.
“For us to beat that side is credit to our team and club culture.”
Bulls coach Shane Thompson said his side needed a greater lead at three-quarter time.
“It was just missed opportunities at the end of the day,” Thompson said.
“We needed to be five goals up at three-quarter time.
“To only be three goals up, we just left the door open for them like they did to us in the second semi.”
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