Thun­der strike twice at Subi’s swan­song

Southern Telegraph - - Front Page - Pic­ture: Trevor Col­lens

Peel held on to beat Su­bi­aco by 16 points in an ab­sorb­ing WAFL grand fi­nal in the last foot­ball game at Do­main Sta­dium on Sun­day. A Thun­der side boosted by a big Fre­man­tle Dock­ers con­tin­gent were too good in the wet, with Luke Ryan tak­ing the 2017 Simp­son Medal.

The State’s youngest league team has farewelled WA foot­ball’s grand­est ground in style af­ter Peel won their sec­ond con­sec­u­tive flag in the last match at Su­bi­aco Oval.

While most of the 18,180-strong crowd were urg­ing Su­bi­aco to see off their cen­tury-old home with vic­tory, Peel’s strength un­der pres­sure proved crit­i­cal in the 16-point re­sult.

Peel’s 11.6 (72) was the low­est win­ning grand fi­nal score since East Perth scored one point fewer in 1972. But the in­ac­cu­rate Lions kicked them­selves out of the match by scor­ing 7.14 (56).

Peel pres­i­dent Bob Ryan said the match was the per­fect way to see off Su­bi­aco Oval given the in­ten­sity of the con­test, in which the lead changed four times in the last term.

“It was the best game played here in a long, long while,” Ryan said af­ter 109 years and 2053 games at WAFL, AFL, State and na­tional league level at the ground.

“When peo­ple re­mem­ber Su­bi­aco Oval, maybe they will re­mem­ber the last match played here.

“And the sec­ond win is al­ways harder be­cause you have ev­ery­one com­ing at you, as Subi did to­day.”

Peel coach Cam Shep­herd praised his play­ers for mak­ing a choice to stand up when they were chal­lenged strongly by Su­bi­aco in the third term.

The Lions were look­ing to build on a 13-point lead late in the third quar­ter, but a stun­ning de­fen­sive dis­play from young Docker Luke Ryan, who won the Simp­son Medal as best on ground, helped Peel re­sist the surge and re­gain the pre­mier­ship mo­men­tum.

Ruck­man Sean Darcy also had a re­mark­able match in which he de­liv­ered a WAFL record 73 hitouts.

Ryan was one of 15 Fre­man­tle play­ers in the team, a co­hort of AFL tal­ent that pro­vided the most con­tentious is­sue in the WAFL this sea­son. But Shep­herd said it was a mark of the qual­ity of the dis­parate play­ing groups that they gelled so well and ul­ti­mately de­liv­ered the club an­other flag.

“We are one united group,” Shep­herd said.

“We are a young footy club but we merge well to­gether. We were down on per­son­nel to­day, we were down on the score­board and down on in­side-50s and we had the op­por­tu­nity to make a choice — to ei­ther dig in or choose to let things go.

“The beauty of this side is that they con­tin­u­ally choose to dig in.”

Zac Daw­son’s se­nior ca­reer ended on a mixed note af­ter six years with Fre­man­tle dur­ing which he be­came one of the game’s most po­lar­is­ing play­ers.

Daw­son kicked the first goal of the last game at Su­bi­aco Oval but soon dam­aged an an­kle and fin­ished the open­ing half and his ca­reer on crutches.

His ab­sence robbed Peel of ro­ta­tions but the slack was picked up by his team­mates, who re­fused to buckle and re­mained un­beaten in the fi­nals se­ries for the sec­ond suc­ces­sive sea­son.

Veteran Rory O’Brien, Peel’s games record holder, said the win was sweeter than last year. O’Brien al­most did not take his place in the game. His wife Ebony was due to have their third child last Wed­nes­day and the veteran rover would have with­drawn if she went into labour be­fore noon yes­ter­day.

“We had a 12 o’clock cut off but she hung on,” O’Brien said. “The sec­ond flag is much sweeter.

“Ev­ery­one wrote us off and said we would never go back-to-back, but we did.”

Pic­ture: Trevor Col­lens

Peel pair Traye Ben­nell and Ger­ald Ugle cel­e­brate in front of de­jected Lion Leigh Kitchin.

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