GOLDEN Square will play in its seventh BFNL grand final in eight years after it scored one of the club’s best wins in modern times in yesterday’s second semi-final against Strathfieldsaye.
The Bulldogs looked down and out when they trailed the minor premier Storm by six goals at half-time.
But their self-belief and will to win never waivered and they wore down the Storm in a stunning second-half comeback.
Square kicked 10.10 to Storm’s 4.4 after the break to win the game, 13.14 (92) to 12.12 (84).
“We were challenged, but we just kept grinding away and we got there,’’ Golden Square coach Rick Ladson said.
“Full credit to our boys because Storm is a quality side. We never gave up and kept working hard.
“It was great for the club to win the game and get a week off, but there’s still a lot of work to be done yet.”
Ladson was the man who sparked the Bulldogs comeback.
With veteran forward Matt O’Toole taken to hospital with suspected broken ribs, Ladson moved himself to full-forward at the start of the third quarter with immediate impact.
He kicked the first three goals of the quarter, including a superb goal on the run from the boundary line in front of the scoreboard.
After being smashed at the stoppages in the first half, Square’s midfield, led superbly by Simon Rosa, got their hands on the ball.
By three quarter-time the margin was back to 13 points. After last week’s taxing game against Eaglehawk you could understand if Square was to run out of legs against the fresher Strathfieldsaye outfit.
In the last quarter it was the opposite, Square had all the run.
A clever snap from Harry Donegan put the Bulldogs within a goal at the seven-minute mark.
However, Storm’s Kris Lea climbed high to take a pack mark in the goalsquare and he kicked truly to give the Storm an 11-point buffer.
When Tom Bartholomew followed suit a short-time later, the Storm had grabbed a 17-point lead.
In Square’s time of need its big guns stood up.
Travis Baird took a screamer at centre half-forward and fed Jack Geary who calmly kicked his first goal of the game.
Jack Daley and Rhys Bradley missed shots on the run for Square before Donegan marked strongly and kicked his second goal of the final term.
From the centre clearance Rosa exploded out of the middle and found James Bristow on the lead 35m out.
He kicked his third goal of the game and the Bulldogs hit the front at the 22-minute mark.
Two minutes later Storm youngster Jake Dickens missed a snap shot from 10m out.
The Bulldogs’ defence withstood the pressure from the Storm and they ran down the clock for a good 90 seconds by chipping the ball around the outer wing.
They eventually kicked long and found Bristow on the lead 60m out in front of the swimming pool rooms.
Bristow’s long kick to the goalsquare somehow bounced through the pack and went through for a goal to seal the win for the Bulldogs.
Rosa was brilliant for the Bulldogs, Jack Geary showed his class, particularly in the second half, and ruckman Matt Compston was the best big man on the ground.
Bristow (four goals, nine marks) and Travis Baird (10 marks) tore the game apart in the final quarter.
After blowing a six-goal lead the Storm were left to lick their wounds and prepare for a preliminary final date with Eaglehawk.
“We were poor in the second half,’’ Strathfieldsaye co-coach Darryl Wilson said.
“What we did well in the first half, we didn’t do well in the second half. We butchered the ball and we didn’t win the contested ball.
“We’ve now got to get ourselves back up for Eaglehawk... that’s not going to be easy.”
Storm lost midfielder Kellan Smith to a hamstring injury that will also keep him out of the preliminary final.
Midfielder Shaun Everington was clearly Storm’s best, while Matthew Ladson, Tom Dowd and Bartholomew (three goals, nine marks) tried hard.