The Eastern Bulldogs have taken out the WAFL Grand Final, on a sunny day at Hutt Park in Wellington.
Their opponents, the North City Demons, played in a determined fashion, but were eventually outrun by the Bulldogs as the match progressed.
As can often be the case in Wellington, wind was a factor in the match. With a strong breeze causing one end to be peppered with goals, the winning team was the side that made the most of their advantage.
After a furiously paced first quarter, it was the Demons who had the lead. Their dominance over the quarter was reflected in the 4.1:25 – 2.0:12 scoreline.
However, with the change of ends came a change of fortunes for the Bulldogs. After spending most of the quarter on attack, they left the field at half time in a strong position, leading 6.4:40 – 4.1:25.
A tight third quarter left the match balanced on a knife edge. The Demons did win the quarter, though not by enough to retake the lead. With three quarters played, the score was 7.7:49 – 6.4:40, with the Bulldogs leading.
The final quarter saw the Bulldogs seize their chance to win a Grand Final, holding the Demons scoreless over the period and knocking in 5 more goals of their own.
The final score was 12.12:84 – 6.4:40, though in the words of WAFL Secretary Margaret Lavery, “The Bulldogs had to fight to win this one. The final score doesn’t reflect how tough the tussle was on the field.”
Jason Wozniak, who also coached the Wellington team at the 2013 AFL New Zealand National Provincial Championships, led the Bulldogs. He was assisted by James Terry, who led from the front in kicking 4 goals in the match.
The North City Demons were coached by AFL New Zealand High Performance coach Shannon Wall, who along with Sam McKenzie and Peter Geale have created a strong group of players who should form the core of their 2014 squad. That the Demons made the WAFL final was a testament to their hard work organising and coaching the team.
The Wellington AFL Grand Final was held in conjunction with the AFL Flying Boomerangs match against the Under 16 New Zealand Hawks, played on the same day at Hutt Park.
Two players from the Under 16 New Zealand Hawks went on to represent their club in the final. Kade Riddell played for the Eastern Bulldogs, and Connor McGeough played for the Demons. Both are expected to be key participants in the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme in future.
AFL New Zealand has experienced significant growth in Wellington over 2013. With thousands of children participating in AFL KiwiKick, and hundreds more teenagers participating in AFL Secondary School programmes, the future for the game in the capital is bright.
St Kilda Football Club played the first ever AFL competition match outside of Australia in Wellington on ANZAC Day in 2013. In a landmark agreement, the club has extended their commitment to New Zealand for five years, with the St Kilda Saints scheduled to take on the Brisbane Lions on ANZAC Day in 2014.
The agreement will have significant benefits for the sport of AFL in New Zealand. Opportunities for community participation, talent pathways for athletes and increased media exposure will greatly assist AFL New Zealand in the goal of making AFL a New Zealand sport.
The presence of St Kilda in Wellington will also be felt during the St Kilda AFL Community Camp, to be held in Wellington on February 12th to 14th. AFL Community Camps bring the sport to regions outside of where clubs are based, and provide an opportunity for fans to meet players.
WAFL Grand Final Score
Eastern Bulldogs 12.12:84 (Terry 4, Wozniak 3, Ticklepenny 3, Ross, Fisher)
North City Demons 6.4:40 (Morgan 3, S Green 2, J Green)