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Bulldogs help deliver historic win in Melbourne for WA

Monday, May 29, 2017 - 12:08 PM by Chris Pike
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THE WAFL State Team made history in Melbourne on Saturday beating the VFL by 63 points with Ben Saunders, Tim Kelly, Haiden Schloithe and Ryan Cook all outstanding from South Fremantle.

It is a first ever victory for any WA team in Melbourne and the four Bulldogs players were all among the best players in the contest.

South Fremantle's goal machine Ben Saunders took home the Simpson Medal after kicking six goals from 16 possessions and eight marks. As if six goals weren’t enough, he could have easily reached double-figures had he converted some of his seven behinds.

He has now kicked 16 goals in his three games representing the WAFL and now has the Simpson Medal to add to his three Bernie Naylor Medals.

Schloithe wasn’t far behind in Simpson Medal contention kicking three goals from 18 possessions and seven tackles in his second appearance representing the WAFL.

Fellow midfielder Tim Kelly continued his tremendous Bulldogs form for WA as well in his second game representing the WAFL. He finished the afternoon with 24 possessions, nine inside-50 entries and seven tackles.

South Fremantle captain Cook played his sixth state game in his seventh season in the WAFL and again performed well with 15 disposals, four marks, four tackles and a goal.

On 23 previous attempts, WA teams whether they be interstate matches, as part of carnivals, State of Origin or representative clashes they have failed to find a way to beat the Big V in Melbourne.

And on the last attempt it was a day everyone in the WAFL would care to forget at the very same Port Melbourne venue in 2007 with a 119-point defeat.

The WAFL came into Saturday's clash at North Port Oval on the back of wins the past four years against the VFL in Northam, NEAFL in Sydney, SANFL at Lathlain Park and Tasmania at Steel Blue Oval to have some confidence.

Then it was a performance for the ages in the state game itself with the WAFL dominating the home team after quarter-time kicking 17 goals to seven.

Not only did WA break a drought that began with the first attempt to win in Melbourne since 1904, but did so emphatically with the eventual 20.14 (134) to 10.11 (71) victory.

The 63-point winning margin was a terrific reward for WAFL coach Michael Broadbridge and his staff who picked a squad who was experienced, had big bodies and were perfectly suited to play to the conditions on the small ground.

The blend in the team selected between the hard, tough ball winners and enough players with a bit of X-factor proved perfect and it looked a side more ready and capable for the conditions and occasion than those from Victoria.

There were plenty of other candidates for the Simpson Medal as well as you would expect in a 63-point triumph.

WA's midfield got right on top of the Big V both on the inside and outside with last year's Simpson Medallist and Sandover Medal winner Jye Bolton finishing with another 24 possessions and a goal.

Kelly was terrific with 25 disposals while prolific West Perth ball winner Shane Nelson had it another 25 times.

Captain Kyal Horsley also had 23 possessions and five tackles for the WAFL with his Subiaco teammate Leigh Kitchin finishing with 20 touches and 10 tackles.

There were plenty more options in attack as well as Saunders with his former Claremont teammate Jack Bradshaw kicking three goals as did his current South Fremantle teammate Schloithe to go with 18 possessions and seven tackles.

Leroy Jetta and Clancy Wheeler also kicked two goals apiece for WA.

West Perth's Kody Manning was the most physically imposing player on the ground with his attack on the ball and the Victorian players when they had the ball unlike anyone else in the game. He finished with 14 possessions and five tackles.

The WAFL back-line stood tall also despite losing East Perth's Kyle Anderson to a dislocated shoulder just before quarter-time. Jordan Lockyer, Jonathon Marsh, Kirk Ugle, Andrew Strijk and Corey Adamson all did well in defence.

Tom O'Sullivan was presented with the Frank Johnson Medal as the best player for the VFL after he had 28 possessions, six tackles and a goal.

Sam Switkowski and Jordan Lisle kicked two goals each for Victoria with Cam O'Shea also having 25 disposals, Matt Hanson 23, Sam Darley 22 and Eli Templeton 20.

The VFL made a promising start with the advantage of the breeze getting the game's first goal through Hanson after five minutes. The WAFL responded impressively firstly when Bradshaw kicked truly after finding some space in heavy track.

Tony Notte soon added WA's second and Jetta his first but two goals to the Big V from Lisle saw the home team lead narrowly by two points at the first change.

The WAFL had the breeze behind them in the second quarter but it was much more than just that which led to them taking control of the contest.

WA soon regained the lead with a goal to Wheeler before it very quickly became the Saunders show.

His first goal was a beauty when he dribbled one through from well outside 50 before his second came after he took a strong, high-flying mark. 

By the time he kicked his third at the 16-minute mark, the WAFL was out to a 23-point lead and it was 29 after Saunders set up Bradshaw to kick his second.

Victoria finally kicked its first goal of the second term at the 19-minute mark through Switkowski and added another two minutes later through Michael Gibbons. But the WAFL had the last say of the half with a clever effort leading to Jetta's second goal to make the half-time margin 22 points.

It took 10 minutes for either side to kick a goal in the second half but it was the WAFL who got on the board first again thanks to Wheeler.

Schloithe then added another soon after before a fourth and fifth from Saunders put the game virtually beyond doubt with the Black Swans out to a 49-point lead.

Switkowski did stem the tide briefly for the VFL with a goal along with another to O'Sullivan, but it wouldn’t last with the WAFL finishing the third term with majors to Bradshaw and Schloithe to be 45 points to the good at three quarter-time.

Saunders started the fourth term with his sixth goal and while he threatened to add to that, he only could manage behinds the rest of the way.

But Ryan Cook, Aaron Black and then Schloithe all kicked last quarter goals for WA to secure the eventual 63-point triumph. 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA        3.2    9.5    15.10    20.14    (134)
VICTORIA            3.4    5.7    8.7    10.11    (71)

WAFL – Goals: Saunders 6; Bradshaw, Schloithe 3; Jetta, Wheeler 2; Black, Cook, Bolton, Notte.
Best: Saunders, Schloithe, Manning, Bolton, Kelly, Kitchin, Nelson, Horsley. 
VFL – Goals: Lisle, Switkowski 2; O'Sullivan, Gibbons, Hanson, Templeton, Darley, Ferry.
Best: O'Sullivan, O'Shea, Switkowski, Goodwin, Hanson.

Simpson Medal (WAFL): Ben Saunders.
Frank Johnson Medal (VFL): Tom O'Sullivan.