2021 will be remembered for challenges but amongst those challenges have been some bright spots and thankfully the 2021 season was able to close with another of those. Round 3 saw the SAFL premiership on the line between the Tigers and Bears with the early leading Vipers and Crocs looking to avoid a wooden spoon. In a high scoring free flowing affair the combined Bears and Crocs always seemed destined to finish in front. Seasoned AFL watchers commented that the game was the best match since the greatest ever AFL Grand Final the 1989 Grand Final. Are they right? A few points seem to seem to back them up:
9 in a losing effort – Tigers skipper Wayne McMahon dobbed 9 but came up effectively 1 short in the big game.
Weight of scoring shots wins it – like that epic grand final the teams scored an even number of goals (16 a piece) but the Bears/Crocs won with extra scoring shots finishing 5 points ahead.
Somewhat luckily there was no cheap shot forcing anyone to play 4 quarters with broken ribs and internal bleeding!
Bears win 2nd Saigon Cup
The Bears emerged throughout the season as a well rounded and consistent squad. Jono and Ryan providing big bodies in the middle, Ela Walsh making huge impact with both run and carry and an ability to hit the score board. Mid season recruits in Quân and the the firey Red Crayon meant that the Bears successfully complimented their partner team in each round of the season. Eventually coming out of the season with a 3-0 record to take the cup.
The centre bounce was the glaring match up coming into the game with the Crocs and Bears pooling some of the SAFL’s biggest bull-bodies in the guts namely Rusty, Ryan-o, Jono. As they have most of the season the Tigers were left to shoulder plenty of the load due to several Vipers outs with Andy G, Dinh Anh combining with Chia for the majority of centre skirmishes. They were able to draw close to even but as feared when the big bulls got through they tended to be do more damage. The Crocs/Bears centre momentum was able to create an incredible 27 scoring shots through the game. New comer Ryan in the ruck for the Tigers/Vipers was a revelation, his rugby instincts to move in straight lines coupled with his size proved effective throughout.
The Tigers and Vipers looked solid on paper with Lisa and Chia 2 of the leading MVP candidates coming into the final round of the season but as the game wore on the Bears/Crocs mother/daughter combo of Katie and Ela Walsh took the chocolates. Katie was solid but Ela bookended the game with the first goal and a HUGE last quarter of run and carry putting her team out of reach.
With trophies on the line there was no doubt a few players had had a dig through the season stats and knew just how many goals they needed to take out the season leading goalkicking award. Rusty surprised by going to the goal square first up in an attempt to chase down the clubhouse leader Tiger’s captain Wayne. After a quiet opening Rusty headed for the guts where he’s proven to be most damaging in his 2 SAFL games so far.
As mentioned Wayne came in with a lead and didn’t he know it. Early in the season opportunities had come easy for the Tiger’s Skipper but conversion left a bit to be desired. Seemingly with the eyes on the prize the conversion issues evaporated as Wayne snapped goals from all corners almost single handedly keeping the Tigers/Vipers on pace through the first 3 quarters of the game. At the other end the Crocs and Bears kept rotating big names through the front half looking for impact but once again it was the smooth forward craft of Pete Mac that found the scoreboard. Finishing with 5 majors Pete has picked up the game in impressive style finding the right spots and even starting to win some big contested marks and ALWAYS converting his chances.
The centre dominance ended up being the deciding factor so it’s no surprise Rusty took the BOG with Wayne McMahon kicking 9 in a performance mirroring that of Garry Ablett Snr in ’89 not enough to get his team over the line.
6 – Rusty Clark
5 – Wayne McMahon
4 – Ela Walsh
3 – Chia Sabbatucci
2 – Nguyễn Minh Quân
1 – Billy Crang