Saints put foot down to march past Bulldogs on special day

Millicent took the bragging rights away from East Gambier in their inaugural Indigenous Game after a miraculous comeback on a special Saturday afternoon of football at McDonald Park.

In a fitting celebration of First Nations people and culture, both football and netball teams lined up in their pristine Indigenous themed guernseys as Aunty Michelle and Uncle Dougie performed the Welcome to Country and smoke ceremony respectively.

Although the celebrations were completed after East youngster tossed the coin, there was one more tribute to come.

After 12 minutes of tough football where only one point was possible, the crowd was brought to its feet by Indigenous Bulldog Garret Ha.

East captain John Foster kicked a centering ball which found Ha, who found space and booted opening goal of the day which just cleared the head of the Saint occupying the goal line.

Ha knew the significance of the moment and turned to the crowd to proudly show off the jumper designed by Marcus Wanganeen in celebration.

It was a moment written in the stars and inspired the Bulldogs to a first-quarter blitz.

The home side’s pressure forced Millicent into mistakes and Mark Rumbelow, Riley Flamank and Jayden Eldridge pounced to give East an eye-popping 25-1 lead at the first break.

Despite East’s flying start, the home crowd had little to cheer about for the remainder of the day.

Even with some massive names out including coach Clint Gallio, who failed to recover from a calf complaint from round 4, a young Saints team showed an immense amount of character and maturity to turn the game around.

In slightly slippery conditions, Millicent cleaned up its skills and outclassed its more senior opponents.

Young guns Josh Werchon, Kade Varcoe and Frazer Bradley won a lot of possession which allowed some of the few experienced Saints to pounce.

Dylan Bromley continued his strong form and found the big sticks from many angles, while Jacob Carger and Sam Willis also made some big inroads on the scoreboard.

Five straight goals in the second term gave Millicent the momentum to overhaul East before half time and take a hard-earned eight-point lead into the second half.

Scoring became difficult in the third term which meant the Bulldogs were only 11 points down with one quarter to play.

But the Saints were an unstoppable force with the wind in their sails and banged home four goals in the final term to complete what turned out to be a comprehensive win.

Millicent’s backline held firm and restricted East to 1.6 after quarter time, while Gallio was extremely proud of his young team’s grit.

“We started slow and poorly again, but we did not change much at quarter time and were able to get the ball back on our terms,” he said.

“We had 17 blokes under 21 so for them to stand up without some leaders on the field which shows they just belong at this level now.

“A couple of our young boys Josh Werchon and Kade Varcoe got us going with their work rate winning the contested ball and people recognised their efforts and jumped on board.

“It was a highly-pressured back and forth game and I felt we just took a bit more care.”

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