Controversial finish to Bendigo Thunder's match

Bendigo Thunder defender Colleen Graham tries to shake off her North Ballarat opponent at Dower Park. Picture: JULIE HOUGH
Bendigo Thunder defender Colleen Graham tries to shake off her North Ballarat opponent at Dower Park. Picture: JULIE HOUGH

CONTROVERSY marred the end of the Bendigo Thunder’s 23-point victory over North Ballarat in the Victorian Women’s Football League yesterday.

With three minutes left in the game at Dower Park, North Ballarat caused a sensation when they walked off the field, leaving Bendigo 6.4 (40) to 2.5 (17) victors.

Thunder coach Russell Jeffrey was stunned at how the end of the match unfolded, with his understanding that North Ballarat had concerns about player safety.

“With about three minutes to go Ballarat forfeited. It’s all a bit cloudy, but it would appear their coach was concerned for their player welfare,” Jeffrey said.

“But I can say without any doubt that it was just a typical game of footy. It was tough, but there was no malice or anything like that.

GALLERY: Bendigo Thunder v North Ballarat

“They were actually testing us early, and I wasn’t disappointed by their approach. We knew after our big win over Lalor last week that they were going to come out and throw everything at us.”

North Ballarat players leaving the field with three minutes remaining followed an incident in which a downfield free kick was paid against Bendigo.

“I didn’t see what happened, but I know there was a 25m penalty paid against us and that sparked the end of the game,” Jeffrey said.

“But there was no retribution or players involved in scuffles... it wasn’t as though it was a tackle that caused player angst from either side.

“Probably the biggest thing from my perspective is we had a very experienced women’s football umpire who came from Melbourne to umpire the game. He thought it was a tough, but fair game throughout.

“At no stage during the game did the umpire indicate to myself or, as far as I know the other coach, that he had any concerns about the way players were going about their business.”

North Ballarat coach John Marshall didn’t wish to comment when contacted by the Bendigo Advertiser last night.

The Thunder’s 23-point win came after they lost to North Ballarat three times in their debut season last year.

“The girls were disappointed with how it finished. At the end of the day the siren is what signals celebration if you’ve worked hard to achieve a win,” Jeffrey said.

“We just hope that people see in the clear light of day that it was a great game of footy.”

The Thunder were always in control of the game after starting strongly to lead by 26 points at half-time, 5.3 to 1.1.

Best players for the Thunder included Hayley Trevean, who dominated in her midfield and defence roles.

Centre half-back Angela Foley constantly repelled North Ballarat’s attacking forays, before being moved into the midfield in the last term.

Winger Milli Hipwell played a fine, courageous game, while Melanie Krause, Colleen Graham and Jessica Kile were others in the best for the victors.

Brea Martin kicked two goals.