Cracker of a game
Saturday, 1st September, 2018
By Tyler Hannigan
The Roos are on the cusp of something very special - an undefeated season - and will go into today’s League grand final as overwhelming favourites against the Bulldogs.
Last time they met:
South: 10.18 (78) def North: 9.2 (56)
22 points was the margin in round 13 at the Alma and it was the closest North had come to beating South all year but really it was the Roos’ poor finishing that kept the Dogs so close.
South had 28 scoring shots to North’s 11 with South spearhead Cody Schorn having a particularly off day in front of goals. North recruit Mitch Reberger starred with five goals in his debut for the club but he didn’t play enough games to qualify for finals.
Last year’s grand final was over at quarter-time as South managed five goals to two in the opening term despite North having first use of a strong breeze. The Roos would romp home to a 57-point victory.
South - WWWWW
The Roos didn’t drop a game during the 15-round regular season and had a whopping percentage of 309.41 atop the League ladder. Their biggest win was by 149 points over the Robins in round nine and smallest was the abovementioned round 13 clash with North.
Their most recent hit out, if you can call it that, was a 90-point belting of West in round 15 with 2018 Mail Medalist Marc Purcell the standout player.
North - WLWWW
Having finished second on the ladder, North were forced to play off for a grand final spot in last weekend’s preliminary final against Central but progressed without much trouble.
The Bulldogs were far too good for Central thanks largely to a seven goal second term and a good defensive effort after halftime that saw them record a 10-goal win.
Overall in 2018, North enjoyed a solid season with 10 wins all coming against Central and West but at no point did they ever look like beating South - save for 10 minutes into the second half of that round 13 match.
Ins and Outs:
IN: M. O’Brien, A. Bird, T. McKenzie
OUT: A. Crombie, D. Semmens, D. Langdon
The experienced pair of Marcus O’Brien and Arlen Bird have overcome their late season niggling injuries and return today along with young gun Tyler McKenzie.
Anthony Crombie, Dylan Semmens and Deklin Langdon, who all played in round 15, have been sent back to the reserves while Mick Vlatko, Connor Washbrook and Jye Smith are the other players unlucky to miss out having played most of 2018 in the senior side.
IN: L. Berryman, H. Trengove
OUT: W. Headlam, B. Elliott
Rob Hickey has gambled on youth for the grand final today, bringing back juniors Harry Trengove and Logan Berryman into the side.
Will Headlam and Brock Elliott are the ones to miss out having both played in the preliminary final. Tobias Hack can also count himself unlucky having been a consistent member of the League side until injuring his hamstring late in the year.
Marc Purcell - South
The South captain has had a fantastic 2018, winning the BDT Media award, Mail Medal and coming runner up in the Lionel Johnston. He’s a contested beast whilst also possessing silky skills on the outside making him an all-round midfield threat.
North simply must stop him today if they’re to have any chance otherwise he could well add the Stan Brooks Medal for best on ground in a grand final to his collection.
Jayden Kelly - North
Kelly won his sixth Lionel Johnston Medal on Monday night, breaking Ray ‘Bubba’ Egan’s long-standing record. He has a fantastic engine, great skills and wins his own ball.
Kelly has spent more time forward in 2018, kicking 31 goals including three last Saturday against the Pies but remains one of the competition’s best onballers and will likely be used in the midfield more today.
On paper, South should win this one by about 10 goals and that’s pretty well been the difference between these sides throughout 2018.
Their depth is first class with at least nine players who can genuinely rotate through the midfield as opposed to North’s five or six at a stretch.
On top of the usual suspects of Jordan Johns, Purcell and Cody Schorn, North have to deal with Luke Lines who’s had a fantastic 2018, Riley Schorn who is quickly becoming one of the League’s best as well as Matt Reavill and Drew Hardy. Throw in Bird, O’Brien and Todd Davidson into the mix and there are weapons all over the park.
A trademark of South’s play over the past few seasons has been their key position players and that’s no different today with the likes of Mitch Henderson, Jordan Holmes, Wade Gepp and Dylan Browne set to dominate if conditions are favourable which they look set to be.
North will call back to 2016 when South were odds on to win their third flag in a row but a combination of good coaching by David Ruddock and a strong cross breeze that negated South’s marking targets saw the Dogs come away with an upset victory.
For the Dogs, they know what they’ll get from the likes of Eddie Morgan, Quinton Beavan, Codie Howard and Kelly but if they’re to win today they’ll need the likes of Jedd Watson, Luke Jones, Luke Larkins and Anthony Henderson to star.
That’s easier said than done though.
The Bulldogs aren’t without hope today, especially if they can get off to a good start, but the Roos look set to go back-to-back.