Taylor-made win for Bulldogs

Former AFL player Matt Buntine produced another polished performance for Tooradin-Dalmore against Dalyston. 409016 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By David Nagel

A ‘Taylor-made’ five-goal victory over reigning-premier Inverloch-Kongwak has legitimised Phillip Island’s dream of reaching a fifth-consecutive grand final in the WGFNC.

Back-to-back premiers in 2018-19, the Bulldogs were runners up to Tooradin-Dalmore and Inverloch-Kongwak in the post-Covid years of 2022-23.

Despite that magnificent record, the Bulldogs were considered underdogs on Saturday and possibly a rung below the Sea Eagles and Nar Nar Goon in the race for this year’s premiership.

But after just 15 minutes of play, those judgements were proved disrespectful and foolish as the Bulldogs quickly built the platform for their 15.6(96) to 9.12(66) triumph.

In front of a bumper home crowd, the home side had five on the board in a jiffy with Billy Taylor opening the scoring after 36 seconds.

A centre clearance from Charlie Bruce found half-back Kai Mackenzie on the run, who kicked long to Taylor for the opener.

Hayden Bruce then drilled a left-footer from long range, and when a desperate Yianni Caffieri scrounged one through from close in, the Doggies were three goals up after five minutes of play.

The Bruce brothers were tremendous through the midfield for the Bulldogs, while skipper Jack Taylor was feeding his brother Billy; playing either midfield or up forward.

‘Jack’ played a typically crucial role on Saturday, starting as a defensive midfielder at centre bounces and working his way forward in general play.

‘Jack’ was also proving dangerous in front of the big sticks, kicking goals four and five to have his Bulldogs in front 32-2 half-way through the first quarter.

The Sea Eagles soon found their groove however, kicking four goals to one in an entertaining finish to the opening term to cut the margin to 12 points at quarter time.

The reigning-premiers lifted their intensity heading to the first break, with a Will Hams tackle on Charlie Bruce resulting in the tenth goal for the quarter with the last kick of the term.

Both teams still played some free-flowing football in the second stanza, but the defensive units of both teams made scoring difficult.

Billy Taylor kicked the only two goals of the second term, opening up a 22-point lead at the major interval.

Billy once again bobbed up at the start of the third, kicking truly after quick hands from his brother Jack and Bruce; of the Charlie variety.

Hams was then knocked out after putting his body on the line in a courageous collision with Cooper Walton; with played held up for several minutes while he was carried from the field on a stretcher.

Upon resumption, Oscar Toussaint narrowed the margin to 19, before goals to Jack Taylor and Jordy Patullo gave the home side a healthy 32-point advantage at three-quarter time.

Looking for answers the Sea Eagles mixed things up at the final break, with centre-half back Tate Short and leading goalkicker Nick Baltas being moved in to the middle to try and generate some spark.

An early goal to Dylan Clark, just 90 seconds in, gave the reigning champs some hope.

The experienced Daniel Pearce then gifted Toby Mahoney a goal, and when Jarvis Harvey snapped one on the run the Sea Eagles were just 13 points adrift with plenty of time on the clock.

Taite Cumming then missed an important set shot, from 20 metres out, that let the Bulldogs off the hook.

The Doggies then kicked four on the trot to slam the door closed.

Bryce Hindhaugh, Jack Taylor and Jordy Patullo all kicked six pointers, leaving it – fittingly – to Billy Taylor to seal the deal.

His set shot made it six goals the difference before a late one to Cumming put the exclamation mark on a wonderful game of footy.

Billy Taylor ended with five for the Doggies, and Jack Taylor four, while Jordy Patullo slipped in with a couple.

Mackenzie was continually damaging off half back, while midfielders Hayden Bruce and Max Walton, and defenders Zac Walker, Jesse Patullo and Aaron Harris were serviceable contributors all day.

The Sea Eagles noticeably missed the drive of their number-one ball winner this year in Ethan Park, while the continued absence of coach Tom Hams restricted them from playing their best footy.

But this was the Bulldogs’ Day; the day they once again legitimised themselves as a genuine premiership threat.

The season of Warragul Industrials is gradually gaining momentum after the Dusties scored a 12.19(91) to 9.7(61) victory over Kooweerup at Western Park.

The Dusties had all the play early, but kicked seven consecutive points before finding their way through the big sticks.

Three goals to one in the second quarter saw the home side open up a 27-point lead at half time, but Kooweerup came out firing in the third.

As they have done in the previous three weeks against Kilcunda-Bass, Tooradin-Dalmore and Phillip Island, the Demons gave themselves a chance of victory against a potential top-six opponent.

The Demons kicked five unanswered goals at the start of the third term, to take a three-point lead, before the Dusties regained their composure with the next six goals to wrestle back control of the contest.

Lachie Bambridge kicked four goals for the Dusties, a total matched by the dangerous Mason McGarrity who was returning from injury for his first game of the season.

Winger Michael Debenham was once again influential for the Dusties, while classy left footers Kyle Beveridge and Travis Ogden also played key roles in the victory.

Kooweerup coach Dale Alanis finally had a change of luck at the selection table, picking an unchanged team for the very first time this season.

It was a nice change after making 16 changes from rounds two to four.

Mitch Alderson and the Voss boys – Matt and Nathan – kicked two each for the Demons, who had Trav Bindley, Zak Banks and Fletcher McMillan in ripping nick around the ground.

The Demons host a red-hot Cora Lynn this week, while the Dusties will return with the four points after a road-trip to Bunyip.

Tooradin-Dalmore has fined-tuned its preparation for a huge trip to Inverloch-Kongwak this week with a 13.12(90) to 8.8(56) victory over a plucky Dalyston.

After a slow start to the season the Gulls now find themselves just a game and percentage away from top spot on the table, but face the Sea Eagles, Nar Nar Goon and Phillip Island over the next three weeks in the ultimate test in WGFNC football.

The Gulls were forced to leave out regular ruck Ray Lengyel on the weekend, but the inclusions of Brand Lenders, Charlie Shinners and Johnny Duff gave them some extra spark around the ground.

The Seagulls led by just three points at quarter time, but nine goals to two across the second and third quarters gave them a 50-point lead at the final change.

The Magpies fought back well, kicking four goals to one in last quarter, but the damage had been done.

Piva Wright slammed home four goals for the Seagulls, and Shinners three, while Connor O’Riordan, Matt Buntine and Nick Lang helped keep the Magpies at bay after a solid first-quarter challenge.

Big-man Will Clarke joined Curtis Murfett, Brad Monson and Fraser West on the Magpies best players’ list, in a game that saw Brody Campbell make his senior debut for Tooradin.

In the remaining games this week, Korumburra-Bena chalked up its first win of the season with a convincing 14.9(93) to 4.8(32) victory over Bunyip.

Playing-coach Josh Hopkins rattled in four goals for the Giants in a best-on-ground display, while three each to Nick Besley and Tom Crocker got the home crowd up and about.

Byron Walker and Tyler Newton were ultra-impressive for the Giants, while vice-captain Zach Walker had an instant impact in his first game for the season.

And Kilcunda-Bass remains two games clear in sixth place after the Panthers scored a commanding 17.11(113) to 2.7(19) victory over Garfield at Bass.

The Panthers were never in danger of defeat, kicking nine goals to half time while keeping the fading Stars goalless.

Anthony Daraio slotted five goals for the winners, while Travis Tuck kicked three in a best-on-ground display.

Ben Eddy, Jo West and Steve Scott were also impressive for the Panthers, who rolled out former Berwick half-forward Tim Gunn for his Kilcunda-Bass debut.

The Panthers face a tough fortnight ahead, hitting the road to take on a rebounding Nar Nar Goon this week, before hosting Cora Lynn in round nine.

Garfield has had some poor results in recent times, but players like Callum Tyler, Zac Soutar and Theo Zaccari will take some good form into a winnable home-clash against Korumburra-Bena this week.