WYCHEPROOF-Narraport produced the best defensive performance in a North Central league grand final for almost 50 years on Saturday as it won back-to-back premierships.
Just as they did last year, the Demons again beat Birchip-Watchem in the grand final, which was played in cold and blustery conditions at Charlton in front of a crowd that paid a gate of $39,000.
The North Central league grand final has become synonymous in recent years for producing tight, competitive contests, but Saturday’s encounter was a comfortable 34-point victory for the Demons.
In the first grand final since 2010 decided by more than two goals, the Demons won 8.8 (56) to 2.10 (22).
The Bulls’ meagre tally of 22 was the lowest in a North Central grand final since Charlton was held to just 1.5 (11) in its 1970 loss to Wedderburn.
Highlighting just how difficult the conditions were and the challenges they posed to scoring, Wycheproof-Narraport’s total of 56 was the lowest winning score in a grand final since Watchem-Corack also kicked 8.8 (56) to defeat Charlton for the 1971 flag.
“We’ve had a game plan in place and preparing blokes for some really important roles over the past month. We were able to implement it two weeks ago in the second semi-final and again today and it was a fantastic effort by all the boys,” Demons coach Julian Bull said.
“Right across the board there wasn’t one player who didn’t play their role today.”
The Demons had lost twice to the Bulls during the home and away season, but turned the tables on Birchip-Watchem when it counted with wins in both the second semi and grand final.
The Demons, who featured 15 players from the 2017 premiership team, kicked seven of their eight goals during their two quarters with the breeze – 3.5 in the first and 4.3 in the third.
Birchip-Watchem’s only two goals were kicked by Nathan Gordon – one in the second quarter and one in the last.
While it was the same result as last year’s grand final with the Demons beating the Bulls, that wasn’t the only similarity to 2017.
Just like he did last year, Demons’ half-back flanker Boe Bish was again awarded the Des Darcy Medal for best on ground.
“Boe was absolutely outstanding today… he had 31 kicks and about 10 intercept marks across half-back,” Bull said.
Bish, who as well as the 2018 and 2017 flags was also part of the club’s 2010 premiership team, joins fellow Demon Tony Graham (1994 and 1996) as the only multiple winners of the Des Darcy Medal, which was first awarded in 1981.
The AFL Victoria Medal went to the Demons’ Ricky Allan (two goals), who like Bish was a joint-coach of Wycheproof-Narraport before Bull’s appointment.
“Ricky played midfield and forward, kicked a couple of goals, had 30-plus touches and did a lot of really good defensive running for us,” said Bull, who kicked two goals.
“Ricky and Boe are both former coaches of the club and to have them both stay on and play the sort of footy they did today with their leadership has been unbelievable.”
As well as Bish and Allan, the best for the Demons also featured three players who had key roles – Morgan Fawcett, who played on Gordon, Toby Sheahan, who played as a defensive forward on Dale Hinkley, and Trevor Rumbold, who kept Bulls’ spearhead Stephen Paulke goal-less.
For Birchip-Watchem, Saturday’s loss continues what is the league’s longest premiership drought, with the Bulls not having won a flag since 2001.
Excluding the first three games of the season when they had their score retrospectively annulled to zero for a player points breach, the Bulls’ tally of 22 was their lowest since 2013.
On a tough day for the club, the Bulls named Ruben Vesikuru, Mitchell Smith and coach Lochlan Sirett their three best players.
While there was disappointment in the seniors for the Bulls, they did have cause for celebration earlier in the day when their under-16s beat Donald in a thriller by one point.
Saturday’s grand final victory brings the curtain down on Bull’s tenure at the Demons, but he will continue coaching next season at his former club, Colbinabbin.
Bull coached the Demons to two flags and a runners-up during his three years at the helm in which he had a record of 48-7-1.
“After the three years your message can start to get old and we’ve got some really good prospects in the pipeline for the next coach, which we’ve been working on for a while,” Bull said.
“The club is in a really strong position for next year. My time coaching has come to an end, but they won’t be getting rid of me that easily… I’ll still be out here a fair bit.”
As well as the senior premiership, the Demons also won the A Grade netball grand final against Donald to end a 35-year drought.
WYCHEPROOF-NARRAPORT PREMIERSHIP TEAM:
1 – Ricky Allan
2 – Corey Jones
3 – George Turner
4 – Brent Sheahan
7 – Anthony Bull
8 – Spencer Allan
9 – Morgan Fawcett
11 – Daniel Bibby
14 – Robert Binks
16 – Joel Turner
18 – James Coatsworth
19 – Boe Bish
20 – Toby Sheahan
21 – Chris Howgate
26 – Tim Holobwski
33 – Ben Brennan
34 – Trevor Rumbold
35 – Hagen Abbot
41 – Rolly White
44 – Julian Bull
53 – Dane McLennan
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