South West have claimed back-to-back Division One titles at the Landmark Country Football Championships, defeating Upper Great Southern by 54-points in today’s grand final at Medibank Stadium.
The reigning champions were forced overcome a spirited third-quarter charge en route to the 19.13 (127) to 11.8 (74) triumph which was set up by brilliant forward line performances from Collie Eagles duo Blair Malatesta, who booted seven goals and Matt Michael who kicked three.
Holding a commanding 33-point half-time lead, South West were outscored five-goals-to-three in the third term as Upper Great Southern made a charge at the silverware.
But the resistance stopped a quarter early, as South West piled on eight final term goals to run away with the win.
Earlier, Malatesta and Michael were looking dangerous up forward and booted the opening two goals of the match.
The pair also combined to deliver the South West’s fourth and fifth majors. Late in the first term Michael found his teammate with a searching kick inside 50 for Malatesta to convert while early in the second precisely the opposite happened as the South West’s advantaged swelled to 28 points.
The defending champions’ clean skills were a major factor in their early dominance. Jesse Gribble was winning plenty of mid-field ball for South West while Harvey Bulls’ tyro Alex James was also working hard.
Upper Great Southern kept the difference in check with back-to-back goals – both from 50 metre penalties – mid-way through the second term.
But when Malatesta snapped his third from hard-up against the boundary line and fourth, from a free kick in a similar position, the margin was out to a game high 33 points at half-time.
South West’s Lukas Teague and David Newman were busy around the half-forward line early in the third quarter while South Bunbury’s Chris Andrew and Carey Park’s Viv Blurton were finding space on the wing.
A rejuvenated Upper Great Southern were throwing themselves into the exchanges and winning their fair share of possession they could not convert their forward sorties until Kane Ransted booted back-to-back goals mid-way through the term.
For Upper Great Southern, Tyler Caldwell, Brendan Berlund and Josh Ball were beginning to get on top in the middle of the ground.
When Narrogin Hawks’ Luke Field snuck through a long range bomb off one step and Ransted slotted his third for the quarter the margin had been slashed to 21 points at the final change and Uppers’ had all the momentum.
The reigning champions needed a steadier in the final term and Teague provided when he kicked truly from 40m out.
Gribble was working tirelessly for South West at the contests and Brendan Page was beginning to get on top in the ruck duels.
Harvey Bulls’ utility Steven Kenny and Busselton forward Louis Davis popped up, both players helping themselves to two last-quarter majors to keep a determined Upper Great Southern at arm’s length and take the sting out of the game.
It was an injury depleted South West who contested the grand final without Josh Krispyn, Jordan Adamson-Holmes and Craig Taylor.
South West 4.7 8.9 11.10 19.13 (127)
Upper Great Southern 1.4 3.6 8.7 11.8 (74)
Goals: South West – B. Malatesta 7, M. Michael 3, S. Kenny, L. Davies 2, A. James, L. Teague, B. Page, G. Piggott, S. Fielding. Upper Great Southern – K. Rensted, 3, C. Davidson, M. Gerard, S. Moore 2, L. Field, J. Price.
Best: South West – B. Malatesta, J. Gribble, M. Michael, V. Blurton, D. Butler, D. Newman. Upper Great Southern – T. Caldwell, B. Berlund, J. Ball, K. Ransted, S. Moore.