2004 SANFL Grand Final

By Robert Laidlaw

While many pundits picked Woodville West Torrens to knock off Central District in the 2004 SANFL grand final, even those with the Bulldogs were predicting a tight, tough encounter, with only points separating the sides at full time. But what odds for a record margin? 500/1?

Yes, the Mighty, Fighting Dogs now own the all time grand final or any final as a matter of fact winning margin after their magnificent demolition of the Eagles last Sunday, to the tune of 125 points! Unbelievable, after Central losses by eight and six points in the minor round and a two point victory in the second semi.

How could such a one-sided match eventuate after all the promises of an exciting contest? Expectations! The Bulldogs expected to perform to a standard, Woodville West Torrens expected the game to fall into its laps, well at least that was how it appeared.

The game opened at a cracker pace, with both sides throwing caution to the wind and giving their all, but as the dust settled, it was Central which kept the early momentum.

After points from both sides, Marco Bello laid a handball off in traffic to Daniel Healy, who dissected the big uprights for the game's first major at the three minute mark.

Daniel Schell then won a holding the ball free and passed to Luke Cowan on a lead two minutes later, and the big full forward made no mistake which elicited an exciting buzz around the ground from Bulldog fans.

At the eight minute mark Bello bombed a ball to the goalsquare, where Cowan rose to the occasion and took a big grab and converted.

Central was on top all over the ground, hitting the body and ball hard, forcing turnovers, while playing intelligent team footy. Tyson Hay broke open an Eagles threatening chain of passes with a well placed spoil, and following up, took a handball from Richard Cochrane and kicked the Dogs fifth goal from 50m at the 10 minute mark.

Everything seemed to be going Central's way, but in grand finals, teams make their own luck, highlighted at the 15 minute mark when Bello dished out a lightening handball from the middle of a pack to Schell, who cleverly passed to Healy for goal number five.

The only way Woodville West Torrens looked likely to score was with a little help from the men in white, and after a 'soft' 25 metre penalty, the Eagles had the ball in the forward pocket, and with a holding the ball free, opened its account at the 24 minute mark.

With the resolve of a team of destiny, the Bulldogs answered a minute later when Stuart Cochrane bombed a ball forward, which Schell cleverly won with good body work, and converted.

Less than a minute before quarter time, Central were desperately defending when a ball seemed to ricochet off Richard Cochrane's arm, which the umpire deemed a throw, and the Eagles had their second major to trail 6-1 to 2-2 at the first break.

Because 80 percent of the 24,000 fans at AAMI Stadium were Bulldog fans, there were plenty of smiles at the first break, but one quarter doesn't win a game, especially a grand final.

On the attack early in the second term, Central kept its relentless pressure up, but two opportunities proved wasted with two minor scores.

At the eight minute mark Woodville West Torrens snapped a magic goal and with a behind soon after, trailed by only 18 points and looked capable of making the contest close.

But two consecutive sensational plays by the Bulldogs confirmed the blueprint of Roy Laird's grand final plan, and set Central on its way to victory.

Coming out of defence at the 16 minute mark, Yves Sibenaler found Richard Cochrane, who bounced three times before delivering to Schell at half forward. Schell dished out a handball to Stuart Cochrane, who spotted a loose Nathan Steinberner and delivered the ball for an easy shot on goal, which was converted.

Two minutes later Richard Cochrane persisted with a boundary-drawn ball, knocking it back into play, where Steinberner gathered and passed to Healy, who slotted a good captain's goal, which seemed to sap confidence from a bewildered Eagles side.

Having broken the opposition's heart with two class goals, Central District kept applying the pressure, and with three majors into time on, including an after the siren goal from Elijah Ware, the Dogs took an imposing 11-5 to 3-3 lead at the long break.

There was no way Central was going to lose from this position, and the message to the printers went out, start churning out the premiership T-shirts, especially after Healy kicked the first two majors of the third term.

At the 11 minute mark, another one of those, 'what was that for' free kicks was paid to the Eagles, which resulted in a goal, but that was the final major for the hapless runners up, as the Bulldog machine went into overdrive.

Some incredible footy from the Gowans boys signaled the famous CEENNTTTRRRAAALLLS chant. Firstly Chris took a spectacular one-hander and immediately playing on, found Schell for a goal, then at the 16 minute mark, James received a handball from Bello, and snapped the goal of the game from 35 metres out.

Another goal from Steinberner just into time on, was followed by four consecutive points, then two goals, as the Bulldogs led 18-11 to 4-3 at the final change.

Leading by 92 points, Central was only 16 points short of the grand final record margin, North's 108 point beating of Norwood in 1952. And it had two other targets, the highest score in a grand final at Football Park 148 points, and the all time mark, 159, set in 1969 by Sturt against Glenelg at Adelaide Oval.

A little inaccuracy in the last term threatened to ambush any record attempts, as the Dogs converted only one of five shots in the last quarter's first 18 minutes.

From the kickout of the fourth point, Paul Thomas took the ball off hands, hurdled an opponent and let fly from 45 metres for a major. Then Schell took a great contested mark in the goalsquare to spark a three goal flurry, leaving Central as the new record holders for margin and score at AAMI Stadium, but one goal short of the all-time record.

Every player, coach and supporter can take a lot of pride from what was achieved last Sunday. All players stood up to be counted, and every man, women and child who supports the club can justifiably be proud of a fantastic effort. For the first time in club history, Central has the top goalkicker, the Magarey Medallist and a premiership in the same year.

Scores: CENTRAL DISTRICT 23-15 (153) d EAGLES 4-4 (28)
Best: Steinberner, Bello, J. Gowans, Schell, Arnott, Healy, plus 15 other worthy contributors.
Goals: Schell 6, Healy 5, Cowan 2, Steinberner 2, Arnott 2, Hay, Scoullar, Ware, J. Gowans, Bello, Thomas.


FF - Richard Cochrane, Luke Cowan, Marco Bello
HF - Chris Gowans, Daniel Schell, Daniel Healy
C - Simon Arnott, James Gowans, Nathan Steinberner
HB - Paul Thomas, Yves Sibenaler, Stuart Cochrane
FB - Brad Currie, Jeremy Aufderheide, Tyson Hay
Ruck - Paul Scoullar, Heath Hopwood, Matthew Slade
Interchange - Jason MacKenzie, Shannon Hurn, Elijah Ware

Coach: Roy Laird
Jack Oatey Medallist: Nathan Steinberner

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