Sons of the West the VFL Premiers
Footscray Bulldogs first standalone season in the Peter Jackson VFL had a fairytale finish with a Legendairy Grand Final win that will go down as one of the all-time classics.
In a see-sawing match, the Bulldogs held off a determined Box Hill Hawks to win by 22-points, the final score 16.13 (109) to 13.9 (87).
The match completes a three peat of premierships for Footscray in the VFA/VFL, after winning the 1923 and 1924 premierships before moving competitions.
Adding his third VFL premiership, Brett Goodes was awarded the Norm Goss Medal; his 30 disposals, 6 marks, 10 tackles, and 8 clearances leading the way for Footscray.
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As expected the first term was a close affair with both teams applying plenty of pressure early.
JJ Liston Trophy winner Alex Woodward opened the scoring after his kick from 60 meters out bounced through untouched, much to the dismay of the Bulldogs coaching staff.
It was goal for goal, until costly mistakes for the Bulldogs gave James Sicily two easy goals in a row.
The big game experience of Box Hill stood out with their tackling pressure creating turnovers. Footscray weren’t helping themselves either, with Jarrad Grant missing what should have been a certain goal, not once but twice. Michael Foggarty and Tom Young however made amends with big goals.
The scores were deadlocked going into the first break, but the momentum had shifted late in the term. Footscray starting controlling possession, with better decision making and finishing.
The Hawks were dealt a blow with Luke Andrews on crutches at quarter time after a heavy knock to the ankle, leaving them a man down for the remainder of the game.
It was all Footscray early in the second term as Grant finally put one through the big sticks. Jason Tutt and Liam Jones added to the Bulldogs goal kicking tally, while Goodes and Lin Jong were working tirelessly through the middle.
Both teams were playing a loose man in defence, but the Footscray ball movement rendered the Hawks extra man back useless as they went straight over the top. In contrast the Hawks were bombing the ball into the forward line, straight into Jordan Russell’s hands.
Towards the end of the quarter the Hawks began to shut down the run from Footscray. More importantly they began hitting targets inside 50 and holding on to marks.
Mitch Hallahan had a purple patch, kicking two goals in a row, and 2014 Frosty Miller Medal winner Sam Grimley stepped up with a huge goal from outside 50.
Footscray’s early domination wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard as they went into half time with just a 1-point lead. Box Hill had worked back into the game nicely.
The Hawks started the third term where they left off, a clever kick from Sam Iles hitting Luke Lowden on the chest, who converted truly.
Cyril Rioli had been well held by Sam Darley, but with AFL teams struggling to contain his brilliance, there was only so long that Rioli’s influence on the game could be stifled. His run, creativity and pressure started to become a factor.
When Ben Ross capitalised on a Bulldogs defensive turnover, he gave the Hawks a 13-point lead.
Footscray had gone away from what was working so well for them early in the match, quick ball movement and hitting up their leading forwards. Instead they were just bombing it in, with the likes of Ryan Schoenmakers easily rebounding the ball back out.
When Daniel Pearce finally marked and goaled it was the Bulldogs first major since the 13 minute mark of the second term. It sparked yet another momentum shift, with goals to Tory Dickson and Jones giving Footscray a four point lead and bringing the vocal Bulldogs crowd back into the game.
But the Hawks weren’t to be outdone, Sam Collins swooped on the loose ball from a marking contest and ran into open goal, and then Billy Hartung left everyone in his wake as he took off on an 85 meter run down the wing, finishing with a goal.
Box Hill went into the final break with a six point lead.
After Sicily took his fourth mark inside 50 and goaled, followed by Ross kicking his second, it gave the Hawks their biggest lead of the match – 18 points – and it seemed like the Hawks were poised to run away with the game.
The Bulldogs midfield, sensing the urgency, went into over drive. Jong and Alex Greenwood started winning the clearances, and Jones finished off their good work with a goal.
The roar of the Bulldogs fans nearly raised the roof when Jack Redpath wrapped up Schoenmakers in a tackle and was rewarded a free kick. He slotted his set shot at goal through, tying the scores.
Just moments later a goal to Christian Howard put the Bulldogs in front by 6-points.
A tense ten minutes followed, as both teams tried desperately to gain an advantage. Michael Talia stood resolute in defence for the Bulldogs, while for Box Hill Angus Litherland and Kurt Heatherly saved certain goals.
Enter Liam Jones. He broke the 12 minute goal scoring drought with a booming goal from 50, and then followed it up minutes later with a strong grab and goal.
The Bulldogs held on to win an all-time classic in front of a crowd of 23,816 - the biggest VFA/VFL crowd since 1978 when 30,000 people watched Prahran and Preston.
Footscray:Jong 31 disposals, 7 tackles, Goodes 30, 10 tackles, 8 clearances, Greenwood 25, 6 clearances, Russell 24, 10 marks, Grant 20 disposals, 5 marks.
Box Hill Hawks: Hallahan 31 dispoasls, 9 tackles, Iles 19, 8 clearances, Ross 19, 6 tackles, Litherland 16, Hartung 15, 6 tackles.
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