Brilliant Bulldogs

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SALE City has avenged its semi-final loss to Heyfield to seal a 53-point win over the Kangaroos in Saturday’s North Gippsland football grand final.

By the time the siren went the result was a mere formality, with the Bulldogs recording an emphatic win, 13.14 (92) to 5.9 (39), with Jacob Schuback adjudged as best-on-ground by the umpires.

There was no let-up from Sale City, which looked to control the centre of the ground early, with Tye Morrison the first to find goal in the sixth minute on his way to a match haul of five.

Coach David Piasente joined him among the goal kickers in the 17th minute and by quarter-time the Bulldogs had kept their opponents goal-less, with the scores at 2.3 (15) to 0.2 (2).

When play resumed, Sale City continued to press the advantage, with Bodhi Walker (two), Tye Morrison, Rowan Bell and Brendon Rathnow all finding goal before Heyfield had a chance to add to its first quarter tally. It wasn’t until the dying minutes of the first half the Kangaroos had their first major, courtesy of Joel Dinsdale.

In the two sides’ previous encounter, Sale City squandered a narrow half-time lead to eventually lose by 28 points and Piasente was eager to avoid a repeat of the situation.

“I put a message on the board (saying) ‘are we willing to go the distance or do you want to be happy with what we’ve done?’,” he said.

“And the boys responded with ‘we’re not happy – it starts again zero, zero and we’re going to go at it like we’ve been going at it in the first half’.”

The Bulldogs answered their coach’s call, with eventual best-on-ground Jacob Schuback, Tom Wilson and Morrison all finding the goal.

Heyfield fought back with three of its own, two coming from James Beha and the other from coach Josh Stubbe. But despite the fight back, momentum was with the Bulldogs who seemed to answer for everything. 

At three quarter time Sale City led by an imposing 44 points, 10.12 (72) to 4.4 (28).

Less than two minutes in to the final term, Walker bagged his third major before Jesse Jackaway managed to drag one back for the Kangaroos.

Bell slotted another in the 19th minute before Morrison ended proceedings with his fifth.

Piasente said he was on a high after his team’s victory.

“I’m just so happy, just to play the exact way we’ve been trying to put the game together all year. To get our best side on the park and to deliver what we did today, four quarter effort (was incredible),” he said.

“The pressure was immense from the boys, we gave them no room to move. We gave them no free ball.”

Piasente said his main joy was seeing players like Wilson, Tom Bowman, Walker and Morrison for taking their chances in the team.

“I’m just so proud of players that really didn’t get an opportunity last year, that have just put in the work and just gone about their game at a different level this year,” he said.

“That was probably the most enjoyable thing from today, seeing the players work who didn’t get a look in last year to this year really playing really good footy.”

The win built on the Bulldogs’ victory in the reserves grand final earlier in the day, something he said had a galvanising effect on the senior side.

“The pressure was on the reserves to perform and it carried through to the seniors,” Piasente said.

“We didn’t want to be them happy, we’re a bit sad. We didn’t want that to be a factor during the night.”

Meanwhile, Stubbe said the Bulldogs had out-played his side from the outset.

“I honestly thought our mood was good going out there, but as soon as that ball went up the boys looked a bit flat footed,” he said.

“The boys looked like they didn’t want to chase, they didn’t want to man up.

“I myself am one of those, I hold myself accountable. You’ve got to have 22 contributors and we didn’t have them today.”

The loss means Heyfield have lost four grand finals in a row, something Stubbe said never got easier.

“You work all year, you start in November, you go through till today and you lose. It’s a long year,” he said.

“I’ve got no doubt they’ll come back next year and have another crack at it. 

“You try to put the past behind you and not think about it, but four in a row it’s taken its toll and they don’t get any easier.”