THE Bendigo Football Netball League grand final will be a battle of the Bulldogs after Gisborne eliminated Strathfieldsaye in Saturday night’s preliminary final.
Gisborne won 16.10 (106) to 13.9 (87) to advance to this Saturday afternoon’s grand final against Golden Square.
The 19-point margin was falttering for the Storm.
Gisborne dominated possession from the first bounce and had the game wrapped up by the 20 minute mark of the third quarter when it opened up a 52-point lead.
Strathfieldsaye showed some resilience by kicking seven goals to three in the final quarter, but by then the Bulldogs had put the cue in the rack in preparation for the grand final.
“We’re a basic sort of team, but when we do things well we get the good results,’’ Gisborne coach Luke Saunders said.
“We planned well for this game all week and the boys executed the plan perfectly.”
Gisborne’s plan was all about pressure.
The Bulldogs never allowed the Storm to play the free-flowing style of footy they’d played in the previous two weeks of the finals.
Saunders also did a great job of dismantling Storm’s defensive unit.
Strathfieldsaye’s backline has been one of the best in the competition all year, but Gisborne made it look second rate.
Storm’s defenders like to zone off in front of rival key forwards, but the Bulldogs continuously hit-up their small and mid-sized forwards.
Gisborne veteran Rod Sharp was the chief target.
Sharp took nine marks and kicked three goals, while Eamon McKenna, Tim Stanton-Smith, Casey Summerfield also found space inside 50 and kicked multiple goals.
“It was all about how hard our forwards worked,’’ Saunders said.
“The week before against Golden Square we didn’t have enough movement and it played into their hands a bit.
“Our midfield was a lot better this week and our forwards demanded the ball.”
Saunders lauded the work of Gisborne’s back six.
Cam Medica’s effort to keep Tom Bartholomew to two goals and Jarrod Arnold’s run-with role on Lachlan Sharp earned praise.
“The midfield pressure was great and that made the backline’s job a bit easier,’’ he said.
“I thought Cam Medica’s job on Tom Bartholomew was fantastic.
“Jarrod Arnold always sticks to his task. He’s not a superstar, but he goes out there and beats his opponent.”
Lachlan Sharp kicked three goals, but two of those were in junk time when the game was over.
Rod Sharp, Clay Illman and David Antonowicz all had ice packs on midway through the final quarter, but Saunders expects the trio to be fit for the grand final.
“We were just looking after them for next week,’’ he said.
“I didn’t think there was any point risking them when we were 50 points up.
“It played into Strathfieldsaye’s hands late in the game, but we’d done enough by then.”