2001 SANFL Grand Final

By Robert Laidlaw

For 36 years Central District remained in the premiership wilderness, but for the second consecutive season, the Bulldogs have taken the ultimate prize to stamp itself as the measuring stick in the SANFL.

On the crest of a nine game winning streak, Central were the favourites with most media outlets to win, but until the game has been played, premierships still remain the elusive holy grail.

Respect has been earned for all of the northern area, as the Bulldogs confirmed that their first flag was not a fluke with a comprehensive demolition of the Eagles last Sunday, winning 10-11 to 4-8, in emphatic

Captain Daniel Healy won the toss and chose to kick to the northern end with the aid of a strong breeze. Simon Arnott slotted a goal at the two minute mark to set the Bulldogs alight, but from that point Central
struggled to use the wind, and only led by eight points at quarter time.

Sam McArdle had put through a set shot at the 13 minute mark, but two consecutive free kicks gave the Eagles' Chris Kluzek an easy opportunity at the 18 minute mark.

At the break, coach Alastair Clarkson thought it was a settling period for the Bulldogs and told his troops: "Just stick at it. We know we perhaps haven't kicked as many goals with the three goal breeze as we
would have liked, but stick at it because anything can happen over the course of four quarters and its going to be real tough for the opposition to hold us."

The Eagles opened the second stanza with an early major, but at the eight minute mark, Sam McArdle grabbed a mark and kicked truly. Then Woodville West Torrens caught fire with two goals in quick succession to wrestle the lead for the first time at the 11 minute mark.

A tense period followed, where only a rushed behind by the Eagles troubled the scoreboard attendants until the 25 minute mark. McArdle took another mark, but fell awkwardly and was stretchered from the

This seemed to be the turning point, as Chris Gowans took the kick and goaled, followed immediately by a further major from Kynan Ford to ensure Central had a lead at the long break.

And the big question on supporters lips: What did Clarkson say to the Bulldogs at half time?

"The second quarter probably wasn't the best. The second half of that quarter we were picking up, and I know if we just have that same intensity in the third quarter, we will destroy them. And because of their hard week, we will have the legs to take them out."

True to their coaches wishes, Central District took complete control at the ball ups, and running in numbers, the Bulldogs rotating midfielders made the Eagles pay for any mistakes in the third term.

After an early point, Daniel Healy kicked a goal at the six minute mark, and then two minutes later, snapped a magnificent left-foot, goal of the game from 30 metres out, to give a confidence-surge through the side.

Only some inaccurate kicking stopped Central from putting the game out of reach at three-quarter time, with only a mark and set shot goal from Paul Scoullar puncturing a brace of five points as the Bulldogs went to a 8-9 to 4-3 lead at lemons. The Eagles were held scoreless for the term.

Clarkson instructed Central not to defend into the wind in the last quarter, but to go for a couple of goals to make it even harder for the Eagles. "We are four goals up, the Eagles need to kick five to win, if we can kick one or two into the breeze, it is going to make it even tougher for them.

"Continue to attack, continue to get on the front foot and have a fair dinkum crack at them, and we can break the game open."

And break the game open they did, keeping the Eagles to only five points, while booting two magic goals to seal the clubs place in history.

Danny Healy kicked a goal at the nine minute mark, that took a leg break late and seemed to be guided through from a greater power, which ignited the crowd, and an orange flare, which seemed to be a signal to start celebrating for the Bulldog's faithful.

The icing came at the 25 minute mark when Kynan Ford ran into an open goal to boot Central's 10th and final major of the grand final.

On his magnificent goal in the third quarter, Healy said after the game: "I don't think it spun right the whole way, I think it was a bit lucky, but it got through and that's the main thing, isn't it?"

And then with his tongue firmly in his cheek, on his major in the last term: "That was actually planned. I planned it to turn left late. No, a bit of luck -- put it on the boot and see what happens."

There were four new Bulldog premiership players, and a rookie premiership coach from Sunday's grand final. Returning Central player Martin McKinnon was delighted with the win and said: "It's the first
success I've had anywhere, it is just so fantastic, all the players were superb today"

Simon Arnott joined the club from the AFL and said: "I had to pinch myself to see if it was real, and when I looked around and saw the other guys jumping around, I realised we finally had done it. I just want to
keep doing it and doing it [winning premierships]."

"Unbelievable," was backman Tyson Hay's response after the game. "I felt a bit shaky in the second quarter, when they were playing pretty good footy, and they were a goal up, but then we got a couple of goals late in the half, which was really lucky, great. I'm elated."

And after only 11 league games, ruckman Paul Scoullar is a premiership player. "I can not describe the feeling at the moment, half way through the year I was playing reserves and didn't look like going up, and now I'm part of a league premiership in the second best competition in Australia."

The 'old troupers' like the Gowans twins, Chris and James, Rick Macgowan, Kynan Ford, Paul Geister, et al, repeatedly said words like fantastic, terrific, better than last year, sensational, brilliant, jubilation, and, funny enough, many used the word relief. After all the hard work, the job is complete for 2001.

And Macgowan was the deserving winner of the Jack Oatey Medal, pipping last year's winner James Gowans with a 37 possession effort from the centre.

Even last year's historic coach Peter Jonas was celebrating after the game. "It was great, really enjoyable. I'm a little bit envious, but that's the way it is. I'm really happy for the boys, for sure," he said.

"Al's done a fantastic job. It certainly brought back some sweet memories, everyone involved with Central enjoyed it, it is what we are here for, to win premierships. And to win two in a row, back to back, the clubs in a real healthy situation. Like every other Central supporter out there today, I found it enjoyable."

One tinge of sadness on the weekend was the unfortunate 21 point loss by the reserves to the Eagles in the grand final. The Bulldogs lost their round one game to Norwood, but then won 20 games in a row, before succumbing last Sunday.

But, now the club should be focussed on redeeming itself for that loss. Twin flags for the top two teams has eluded Central for 38 years, a pact needs to be made to rectify that unfortunate scenario in 2002.

Central District 10-11 (71) d Eagles 4-8 (32)
Best: Macgowan, J. Gowans, C. Gowans, D. Hicks, Healy, Hopwood, Arnott, Geister, Slade.
Goals: Healy 3, McArdle 2, Ford 2, Arnott, C. Gowans, Scoullar

Named lineup 10th October 2001

F: Martin McKinnon, Sam McArdle, Matthew Slade
HF: Chris Gowans, Kynan Ford, Michael Stevens
C: Daniel Healy, Simon Arnott, Nathan Steinberner
HB: Brent Guerra, Brian Haraida, Heath Hopwood
B: Damian Hicks, Paul Geister, Tyson Hay
Ruck: Paul Scoullar, James Gowans, Rick Macgowan
Int: Damien Arnold, Marco Bello, Quinton Graham

Coach: Alastair Clarkson
Jack Oatey Medallist: Ricki Macgowan

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