Busselton are the first team through to the Dale Alcock Homes South West, 2023 SWFL Grand Final, after a thrilling two point win over South Bunbury at Sir Stewart Bovell Park on Saturday afternoon.
In almost perfect weather conditions, Busselton got off the a fast start, with Austin Styles kicking the opening goal in the first two minutes. Leigh Kohlmann goaled shortly after, putting the Tigers back in front. The lead was extended further when Adam Hunter kicked truly from a set shot, with the Tigers seven points in front after six minutes. The momentum carried on for the Tigers, who were getting plenty of run through the centre, and when Rising Star winner, Kade Szyszka goaled after ten minutes, South Bunbury were on top, leading by two goals.
Busselton went about arresting the momentum, and that was helped when Damian Lee popped up to kick the Magpies second. Liam Creighton kicked his first for the afternoon, leveling the scores, and when Jake Dugan goaled two minutes into time-on, Busselton were back in front.
Leading by a goal at quarter time, the margin was reduced to two points early in the second, when Adam Hunter took a strong mark. Scoring dried up as the ball went from end to end as both defensive lines got on top. A miss kick into the forward line was fortuitist, landing in the arms of Jaxon East who put the home side up by eight points. The margin crept out again to as much as fourteen points, but when Jace Cormack converted after a 50m penalty, the lead was reduced back to seven points at half time.
Jaxon East received a free kick at the commencement of the third quarter putting Busselton back to a two goal advantage, but that was nullified when Leigh Kohlmann found himself all alone 40m out, kicking a good goal on the run. Craig Hutcheson converted late in the quarter reducing the margin to two points again, as Kevin Chitty, Shaun Crane and Jace Cormack were starting to have a major influence through the midfield. A late goal to Austin Styles gave Busselton a nine point buffer at the final change.
With a Grand Final place at stake, the last quarter was set up to be a beauty and it delivered. Hutcheson goaled to reduce the margin to two points yet again, and the Tigers hit the front for the first time since the twenty minute mark of the first quarter when Shaun Crane slotted a good goal. Things were looking shaky midway through the final term for Busselton when Ethan Nordahl took a strong pack mark to have the Tigers ten points in front, but there was to be another twist.
Jaxon East took a strong pack mark of his own reducing the margin to four points with seven minutes to play. Mitch Howlett took a mark 47m out with five minutes remaining with the set shot touched just over the goal line, putting the Magpies back in front.
In a pulsating final four minutes, play went from end to end, with both teams having an opportunity to win the match. When the siren sounded, there were jubilant scenes from Magpie supporters who move into their third grand final in four years. South Bunbury move to the Preliminary Final, where they will play either Carey Park or Donnybrook at Kelly Park next Sunday.
Busselton 4.1.25 6.3.39 8.6.54 10.7.67
South Bunbury 3.1.19 5.2.32 7.3.45 10.5.65
Goals: Busselton – Jaxon East 3, Liam Creighton 2, Austin Styles 2, Jake Dugan 1, Mitchell Howlett 1, Damian Lee 1. South Bunbury – Adam Hunter 2, Craig Hutcheson 2, Leigh Kohlmann 2, Jace Cormack 1, Shaun Crane 1, Ethan Nordahl 1, Kade Szyszka 1.
Best: Busselton – Jaxon East, Mitchell Tenardi, Mitchell Fraser, Bailey Sanford, Zac Pethybridge, Brodie Howell. South Bunbury – Shaun Crane, Kevin Chitty, Kade Szyszka, Ethan Nordahl, Jay Crossman, Jesse Crichton.
Ground: Sir Stewart Bovell Park
Umpires: Cameron Valenti, Scott Jones, Cameron Edmonds, Kevin Hutchins (Replaced Cameron Edmonds at three quarter time due to injury)