BFNL Football Grand Final Review | Golden Square marks grand victory against Sandhurst


GOLDEN Square regained its place as the Bendigo Bank Bendigo FNL’s top dog as it fought for a one-goal win against Sandhurst in the senior footy grand final.

Thousands of fans packed Queen Elizabeth Oval for what was the 10th showdown between the great rivals for the Bendigo Advertiser premiership cup.

In a match where momentum swung wildly, especially in the final quarter it was the Christian Carter-coached Golden Square which held its nerve to win 71-65.

As he reflected on joining an elite group as a premiership player, captain, and now coach, Christian Carter declared the team of ’23 was capable of a lot more success.

“I believe this group has the hunger and quality to string more premierships together.”

Carter was a key player in the club’s golden era of 2009 to ’13 when it won five consecutive premierships.

The victorious coach said it was a mixture of excitement and relief on capturing the club’s 18th senior premiership.

“This win means a lot to so many people, not just the 22 who played, but every player, official, volunteer, and supporter,” Carter said.

After an inaccurate first quarter in which it scored 2.6, Golden Square went to the break a point behind Sandhurst which had added 3.1.

In term two it was the Bulldogs on-ballers Ricky Monti, Ryan Hartley and Thomas Toma who started to take control around the contests.

Bulldogs’ ruckman Matt Compston had the daunting task against Hamish Hosking and was superb.

“The way Matt changed his game and angles was brilliant,” said Carter.

A key strength for Square is it work at stoppages and ability to work the ball to a running team-mate.

In the second quarter the blue and gold added 3.2 to 1.2.

By half-time Golden Square was up 38-27 against a Dragons team coached by Ash Connick, non-playing, and Bryce Curnow, playing.

Sandhurst not only charged back into the contest in the third quarter, but to the front.

Young guns Noah Walsh and Sam Conforti were outstanding at the centre ball-ups and their running game started to hurt the opposition.

As the Dragons added 3.4 they kept the Dogs to a score of 1.1.

Sandhurst was up 49-45 going into the final term.

The Bulldogs regain the lead when Liam Barrett kicks the first of what would be three goals in the last quarter.

Sandhurst veteran Andy Collins marks and makes no mistake for Sandhurst to be up 55-52 in the early minutes of the term.

Consecutive goals by Barrett, one from a set-shot and the other a bouncing shot put Golden Square in front by eight points.

Talented teenager Archer Day-Wicks took another brilliant mark and goaled for the Dragons.

When Joel Brett handpassed to Liam Duguid in the clear to goal the Dogs led 71-63 in the 20th minute.

From there it was the Dragons who fired up and did plenty of attacking.

Golden Square’s defence was under enormous pressure as Sandhurst was relentless in putting the ball back inside the forward 50m arc.

After 30 minutes of superb footy the siren sounded with Square in front, 10.11 (71) to 9.11 (65).

“There were so many critical moments in that last quarter,” Carter said.

“Our ability to lock the ball in, pressure and tackle is what we work a lot in training.”

In an attack which featured the brilliance of Joel Brett and marking power of Braydon Vaz it was Liam Barrett who kicked a team-high three goals for the Bulldogs.

Brett finished with two goals as Liam Duguid, Hugh Freckleton, Ryan Hartley, Thomas Toma and Braydon Vaz added one each.

Best for the Bulldogs were Jack Geary who earned the Nalder Medal as best afield for the third time in his brilliant career.

The play of Ricky Monti, Tom Strauch, Matt Compston, Ryan Hartley and Thomas Toma was superb in that match which matters most.

In a season where he played his 250th game for Sandhurst, Matt Thornton led the attack on grand final day with three goals.

Andy Collins and Sam Conforti kicked two as Archer Day-Wicks and Jake McLean added one.

Noah Walsh earned the AFL Victoria medal and was Sandhurst’s best along with Sam Conforti, Hamish Hosking, Jake McLean, Isaac  Ruff and Nicholas Stagg.

For most of Golden Square’s team it was their first senior premiership victory.

League legend and Bulldogs’ captain Jack Geary marked his sixth.

It was another grand final win for the athletic Hamish Morcom who will now join Huntly as playing coach in the Heathcote DFNL.

Tom Strauch joined his late grandfather Neville Strauch and dad Dean Strauch as a premiership player for Golden Square.

It was a day to remember for all of the 22 players who took to the field for Golden Square, along with the coaches, support staff, volunteers and fans.

There were also the hard-luck stories of Jack Merrin and Terrence Reeves who had been hit by season-ending injuries.

Golden Square won 17 matches in a row to complete a superb season.

“The loss to South Bendigo by a point in round four was the wake-up call we needed,” Carter said.

“At the time we realised we were not as good as we thought we may have been.

“To the boys’ credit they worked incredibly hard from there on in every match and training session.”

Golden Square’s premiership-winning team:

B: Jake Thrum, Zack Shelton, Harrison Burke.

Hb: Jon Coe, Jayden Burke, Jack Hickman.

C: Jack Threlfall, Ricky Monti, Thomas Toma.

Hf: Hamish Morcom, Tom Strauch, Liam Barrett.

F: Jack Stewart, Braydon Vaz, Joel Brett.

Foll: Matt Compston, Jack Geary, Ryan Hartley.

Inter: Liam Duguid, Hugh Freckleton, Brodie James, Zavier Murley.

Emerg: Macey Eaton.

Coach: Christian Carter.

In the Harmac Homes-backed reserves competition it was Sandhurst which outplayed and outran Eaglehawk to taste premiership glory.

For the second time in four weeks it was the Jake McLean-coached Sandhurst which beat the Borough.

The Darcy Richards-coached Eaglehawk went into the grand final on a win-loss tally of 17-1 in the home and away series and had beaten Sandhurst in the second semi.

In the grand final the Dragons led 14-6 at quarter-time and 21-12 by half-time.

Quarter three was when the Dragons turned up the heat.

As Sandhurst scored 4.1 it held the Hawks to a score of 1.2.

Eaglehawk won the final quarter, 16-7, but it was a Sandhurst team captained by Pat O’Farrell which celebrated a 17-point victory.

Luke Crawford and Joel Wharton kicked two goals apiece in the 8.5 (53) to 5.6 (36) victory for the maroon and blue.

Other goalkickers for Sandhurst were Harrison Free, Jack Keating, Jacob Nihill and Sean O’Farrell.

Goalkickers for the Hawks were Jack Daley, Liam Drummond, Jacob Greenwood, Ethan Hanley and Ryan Wellington.

Best afield honours went to Sandhurst’s Harrison Free who was presented with the R.F. Turner Medal.

Also in the best for the Dragons were Harrison Free, Jack Keating, Martin Leyden, Tom Calvert, Sean O’Farrrell and Luke Crawford.

Jack Daley, Ethan Hanley, Oscar Madden, Harley Bourke, Mitchell Ronchieri and Sam Dean were best for the Two Blues.

It was back-to-back premiership wins for Gisborne in the SportsPower-backed under-18s competition.

A thrilling contest between Gisborne and Golden Square ended in a 53-49 victory for Gisborne.

At the end of a hard-fought opening term it was Golden Square which led 13-7.

The Rob Kerr-coached Gisborne dominated most of the second term and led 25-15 by half-time.

Golden Square won the third term, 15-12, and then took the lead in the final quarter.

Jointly coached by Rowan Warfe and Paul Hamilton, Golden Square had scored 3.1 in the last, but a second and final goal of the match by Gisborne clinched a four-point victory.

A four-goal haul by Gisborne’s James Gray earned the Rod Ashman Medal for best afield.

Other goalkickers for the red, white and blue were Jack Clough with two, Jarrod Ainsworth and Matthew Barake.

Golden Square’s attack was led by Jack McMahon on three goals and he earned the AFL Victoria medal.

Other goalkickers for the blue and gold were Bailey Cain, Harrison Kelly, Tommi Turner and Noah Warfe.

Best for Gisborne were Kane Minns, James Gray, James Gentles, Ed Williams, Jarrod Ainsworth and Flynn Weber.

Jack McMahon, Nick Sherriff, Zac Wescott, Oliver Eaton, Xavier Carter and Tommi Turner were Golden Square’s best.