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2008 SANFL Grand Final

SEVENTH HEAVEN
By Robert Laidlaw

Central District Football Club is in seventh heaven, as the Bulldogs claimed their seventh flag from the past nine grand finals with a 42 point victory over the Glenelg Tigers in Sunday's SANFL premiership decider.

After a tight first half, a devastating seven goal third quarter onslaught, led by ruckman Jason Mackenzie, saw the Bulldogs lay the foundation of the victory, increasing a four point half time advantage to a match-winning 37 point cushion.

From six rookie premiership players, four were local Barossa, Light & Gawler Football Association products - Brayden O'Hara (Gawler Central), Jonathan Giles (Kapunda), James Moss (Willaston) and Matthew Westhoff (Tanunda). The other two were Trent Goodrem and Ryan Williams.

As expected, the first quarter opened at a frenetic pace, with Glenelg kicking the opening goal five minutes in. A pin-point pass from O'Hara to James Gowans four minutes later saw the Dogs with their first.

A loose ball snap from Westhoff and a good diving mark and conversion from Daniel Schell had Central 13 points up heading into time on. Two free kicks for two goals by the Tigers closed the gap to a single point at the first break.

Early in the second term Glenelg made all the running, but wasted a huge amount of energy, scoring just one goal from five scoring shots in eight minutes, with a good snap across his body major from Ian Callinan shifting the momentum, as the game closed up.

Some clever work from Westhoff secured the only other goal of the period, when he avoided an opponent and from a tight angle toe-poked a major from the outside of his boot, and against normal expectations, the ball perfectly dribbled through the centre of the goals.

At half time the Bulldogs led by four points after absorbing everything Glenelg had thrown at them, while laying a myriad of tackles, which would prove crucial, as the Bays looked sore and sorry traipsing off the field.

How good was Central in the third quarter? It was arguably the club's best term of football in a grand final, as the Doggies turned a close contest into a one-horse race.

It all started out of the middle, where Mackenzie was reigning supreme, and the better he played, the further Central got in front.

Scott Dutschke started proceedings with the first goal of the half seven minutes in, and then O'Hara gathered a loose ball and kicked truly.
Then after Glenelg had pulled one back, Matthew Slade immediately responded with his long wobbly snap – the goal of the day.

Schell bobbed up with another a minute later, then exactly 60 seconds further into the contest Trent Goodrem triggered the famous Ceennnttttrraaals chant with his beauty, and all of a sudden Central was 28 points ahead.

Against the flow of play Glenelg kicked a major on the cusp of time on, but Chris Gowans and Luke McCabe ensured the Bulldogs would have a handy buffer at the final break with goals, the lead now out to 37 points.

Within 30 seconds of the start of the final term, it looked like Chad O'Sullivan would rub salt into the wound, but his shot missed. A couple of minutes later he made amends with a more accurate kick.

Young guns Dutschke and O'Hara hammered the advantage home with further goals, before a pair of Tiger answers stemmed the flow. Westhoff booted his third before another couple of Glenelg majors, and the final word went to Jack Oatey Medallist Mackenzie with his straight snap.

Scenes of jubilation engulfed the arena as the final siren blew, Central District again premiers, its seventh success from the past nine grand finals at Football Park!

Sunday was Jason Mackenzie 117th league game for the Bulldogs, and with his two other finals matches in 2008, represented a purple patch of form, which when added with his performance against Port at Elizabeth mid-season, are arguably his best ever outings for the club.

James Gowans seemed hell-bent on matching twin Chris' two Jack Oatey Medals, but he fell just shy, gaining second best honours to Mackenzie's heroic efforts.

Co-captains Paul Thomas and Matthew Slade were sensational all game, giving the Dogs a two-pronged leadership one-two punch, while young gun Brayden O'Hara stood up to the heat of battle like a wily veteran.

Ian Callinan proved he is a big-game performer with another outstanding grand final, while the rest of the team can also hold their heads high, as there just was not a passenger in the major game of the season.

Central District 3.2 5.4 12.8 17.11 (113 pts.)
Glenelg 3.1 4.6 6.7 10.11 (71 pts.)
Best: Mackenzie, J. Gowans, Thomas, O'Hara, Callinan, Slade, Williams, Dutschke.
Goals: M. Westhoff 3, Schell 2, Dutschke 2, O'Hara 2, J. Gowans, Callinan, Slade, Goodrem, C. Gowans, McCabe, O'Sullivan, Mackenzie.

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Riding the bumps with a grin at Centrals

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