It was ten years in the making, but the Esperance District Football Association Premiership is heading back to the Gibson Soak after a hard fought and enthralling contest at Esperance Oval against the Bulldogs on Saturday. Gibson won by 7 points, 13.9-87 to 12.8-80.
The home side had won the previous six premierships but went into the Grand Final as slight underdogs after a convincing 53 point First Finals win saw the Tigers progress directly through with the week off. Esperance swung the changes for their Prelim against Newtown, including ten changes that would strengthen the line-up. They went through to the Grandy full of confidence after a commanding 99-point victory.
Esperance began proceedings with a surprising win in the colts against Ports proving that the Dogs will continue to be a force into the future, and Ports could drive up the ladder, so long as they can hold on to their talented youngsters. The Gibson club demonstrated its depth after the reserves side dominated their match against Ports to register an impressive win. Both league sides would have momentum with their club tasting success down the grades headings into the final fixture of the day.
Gibson started the game strongly, and had the better of Esperance in the first quarter when it came to entries inside 50. Despite this, Gibson stuttered in front of the big sticks and Esperance went up 4.0 to 1.3 at the first break, capitalising with every forward thrust with silky skills and composure.
Gibson continued its dominance in the second quarter but this time built some scoring pressure, kicking away 7.5 to 6.2 at the main break. Big man, Sam Melican began to assert his dominance in the quarter kicking goals and smashing the ruck, with Jordan McAllister consistency powerful around the ball. Richie Bourne would kick one of his team’s majors for the quarter, making it two long, running goals for him for the game.
The contest began to level out in the premiership quarter with the Bulldogs continuing to chip away with some tireless on ball efforts. The Tigers would kick three for the quarter and the home side would kick two. BJ Whiting would take to the skies midway through climbing over the shoulders of a Bulldogs opponent to take it cleanly, arguably mark of the year. The captain P. Jannings would smother a gettable 45 m set shot from Bourne to get the Tigers faithful up and roaring. Gibson would go into the final quarter 13 points the better than their white and red opponents.
The fourth and final quarter was full of momentum swings. Esperance kicked three quickly to be well and truly in the hunt, but Gibson would not let those deter them. Sam Franzone was looking powerful up front as the Dogs threw Parsons and Griffiths on the ball to drive them forward. Gibson always appeared to have the answers though with the half forwards working overtime to ensure the footy stayed in the Tigers first half. Going goal for goal just about it seemed the victor could be decided by a coin toss. When White marked and goaled later in the quarter to move his side to within a point of the black and yellow, you could feel nerves building in the Gibson camp. A clutch Curry goal reminiscent of Paul Chapman, snapping over the shoulder from a pack would give the Tigers some breathing space and Jannings would slot the sealer from the boundary late the put the result beyond doubt. BJ Whiting would take two colossal marks to hold the Dogs at bay as they pressed late. He would go on to win the BOG for the day.
Both sides did their supporters proud for the day and shouldn’t be disappointed. It capped off an intense rivalry between the clubs across the year, with games going either way across the journey. Congratulations to both sides and many thanks to all the volunteers who contributed and helped towards the organisation of the Esperance District Football League throughout the year.
Listen to Sean taking on the Gibson Coach at the Catch Up podcast below!