Gisborne’s young guns kick off memorable day
A THRILLING two-point victory in the under-18s grand final kicked off what would be a memorable day for the Gisborne Football Netball Club on Saturday.
Despite being beaten in three previous showdowns with Sandhurst, the Bulldogs won the match which matters most.
It was the Dragons who made a great start on a sodden Queen Elizabeth Oval to lead 19-6 at quarter-time.
Despite the cold and heavy rain at times, skills from both teams were excellent.
Sandhurst was first to goal when the footy skimmed off the hands of the pack in a marking contest and fell to an unguarded Mason Hartland to kick truly.
The Bulldogs struck back after Sam Wilson was held in a sprint for the bouncing ball.
The Dragons had done most of the attacking to the Rosalind Park end but at that stage was 1.6 to 1.0.
Excellent roving of another marking duel near goal by Oliver Morris resulted in a snap goal for Sandhurst to lead 19-6 just seconds before the siren sounded.
Most of the play was at the city end in the second quarter.
This time it was the Dogs who had lifted their intensity at the contest and run from stoppages, but were also astray with shots on goal.
It took until the 10th minute of the term for Gisborne to mark its second goal of the match when Zach Paterson’s snapshot was on target.
The Dragons added a point, but led 20-17 at half-time.
Sandhurst went further ahead in the third minute of the second half when Luke Salvador took a great mark on the grandstand wing and was then taken 50m closer to goal after being held for too long.
Salvador’s shot went through for the maroon and blue to lead 27-17.
Just as it had done in the first term, a Gisborne goal through Harry Luxmoore to the Barnard Street end would prove crucial.
The Dragons replied in the 22nd minute when Tim Long intercepted a pass to the Aquatic Centre flank and goaled on the run.
Sandhurst led 35-25 going into the final quarter.
Both teams had added a point each by the 10-minute mark of the last.
A Luxmoore mark and goal from near 40 metres put the Bulldogs within four points in the 14th minute.
After being pushed to the ground away from the play, Zach Paterson was awarded a free and goaled to put Gisborne in front, 38-36 in the 18th minute.
Pressure ramped up across the last five minutes of a top contest as the Bulldogs held on to claim the premiership cup.
The Rod Ashman Medal for best afield, as adjudged by the Fresh fm radio commentary team, went to Gisborne half-back flanker Jarrod Ainsworth.
Sandhurst’s Luke Salvador earned the Worksafe AFL Victoria medal.
Best for Gisborne included Jackson Kerr, Kne Minns, Connor Bills, Cameron Freake and Shane Clough.
The Dragons’ best were Seb Morris, Xavier Austin, Declan Delaney, Ryan Domaille and Archer Day-Wicks.
Although disappointed not to end the season as number one, Sandhurst coach Jeremy Rodi said he was incredibly proud of the 22 who were in the grand final and those who had represented the Dragons’ under-18s in 2022.
“Thanks to all those behind the scenes for all they have done too,” said Rodi.
Victorious coach Rob Kerr praised Sandhurst on what was a fantastic year.
“Every match against you was tough, and we knew we would have to play incredibly well to beat you.”
He said Gisborne’s young guns had been on a tough journey to the grand final, and to win it.
The Bulldogs won the qualifying final against Golden Square, were beaten in the second semi by Sandhurst, but bounced back to beat Square in the preliminary final.
“The weather helped us today, but the spirit and energy the boys brought to and played with was outstanding.
“Enjoy this moment. You will remember this for the rest of your lives,” Kerr told the Gisborne players.
It was then left to co-captains James Fox and Darcy Lockens to raise the premiership cup.
Written by Nathan Dole.