BULLDOGS, TIGERS CHASE HISTORY
South Bunbury and Bunbury will lock horns in the first ever SWFL women’s derby grand final at Hands Oval on Sunday. In arguably the most anticipated women’s football match ever to be held in the South West, a Bulldogs victory would seal a premiership three-peat and etch the name of Jon Farr’s squad into SWFL immortality. A Tigers win would not only complete a perfect season, but inflict the Bulldogs’ first ever finals defeat since the competition’s inception. Here, Bulldogs captain Bronwyn Walker and Tigers skipper Ebony Bilcich get up close with the premiership cup.
South Bunbury will complete a perfect season in 2019 if they manage to defeat Bunbury in Sunday’s SWFLW grand final against Bunbury at Hands Oval.
But heading into the campaign, the focus for new Tigers coach Maxwell Jetta was only about one thing – ensuring his players had fun.
By implementing a familyoriented focus at training and on game day, the Tigers have looked impressive across all areas.
With solid numbers on the track, the Tigers had no issues with player depth.
Ahead of Sunday’s decider, Jetta told the South Western Times he had kept things very calm at Hands Oval.
“We went for a little bit of a run on Saturday just to keep our legs ticking over,” Jetta said.
“We didn’t want to relax too much.
“It’s important we keep up our standards of skill and keeping our team support up. Training on Monday night wasn’t too strenuous but we made sure we weren’t slacking off with our skills.”
The Tigers were given an almighty fright by the Bulldogs during their clash in round 17, with the reigning premiers bolting out to a 13point lead at quarter time.
Jetta feels his players took plenty from the clash, which could hold them in good stead for any challenges thrown at them on Sunday.
“They were just on the ball from the start,” he said.
“And I think the girls realised it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park and they had to come out and play from the start.
“When we brought them in at quarter time, I told them that this is what the finals series would be like.
“Teams can jump you and it can be very hard to come back. There’s a lot of hard work you have to put in when going up against top teams like that, but we had a little bit of luck and managed to get over the line.”
On a personal level, football and family mean a great deal to Jetta, who is immensely proud of his team irrespective of the result.
“Footy is a big part of my whole family,” he said.
“A lot of the Jetta boys are playing in the AFL and doing great. Especially when it comes to finals, we all try our best and that’s when you need to stick together.
“Footy is a place where I can relax and be peaceful – get away from it all, but at the same time, show the girls what footy is all about.”
Bunbury have taken a different road to the grand final this season, suffering four defeats at the hands of the Harvey Bulls and South Bunbury.
It was a stark contrast from their opening two seasons, when the Bulldogs tasted defeat only once.
Round seven’s 75-point loss against the Tigers proved to be a real wakeup call for Jon Farr’s side, according to assistant coach Carly Allen.
“That was our turning point,” she said. “We started rebuilding and focussing on what we needed to do.”
Both sides renewed hostilities in round 17 and although the Bulldogs were narrowly defeated by 12 points, they took plenty of solace from their effort.
“We were up at three quarter time and didn’t end up winning, but we weren’t necessarily disappointed,” Allen said.
“Because it gave us hope that we could do it against South Bunbury. It was only a narrow loss, so we are still motivated to play like that again this weekend and hopefully take out the win.”
Selections for Farr and his coaching staff will be critical this week, with a few players battling injuries.
Dynamic ruck Cian Parsons is highly doubtful for the clash following a serious knee injury in Sunday’s preliminary final win against the Harvey Bulls, while the Bulldogs will seek medical clearances before determining whether both Abby Gellard and Courtney Babich will be available to play.
However in a massive bonus for the reigning premiers, Trisha Lake and Kristy Larsen will be available, with their big game experience invaluable on the big stage.
Allen, who played three matches this season prior to her pregnancy, has enjoyed working with Farr, who has continued the solid foundations laid by former coach Sean Creasey.
“Jon’s really approachable,” Allen said.
“The girls get along well with him and I hear that he’s a bit of a different coach to the player he was on the field back in the day.
“He’s a bit more cool, calm and collected with it all.”
Having been involved with Bunbury in the women’s competition from day one, Allen believes a premiership on Sunday would be satisfying, considering the early doubters and player turnover during the offseason due to uni and WAFLW commitments.
“It would be extra special because so many people wrote us off at the start of the season,” Allen said. “Last year we were undefeated and this year we had quite a few losses.”
Bulldogs midfielder Ruby Mahony takes on the Tigers defence.