South win completes fairytale

South Gambier is undoubtably in a league of its own after overcoming a spirited Kybybolite in the 2021 Veolia Limestone Coast Women’s Football League Grand Final on Sunday.

The 34-point win ensured the Demons became the first LCWFL side to secure multiple premierships and did their first since the inaugural competition in 2017 in extraordinary fashion.

South’s class was evident in every match throughout the 2021 season and the side lifted the trophy after winning every game by a substantial margin. Demons’ captain Kaylene Nuske said her girls celebrated in style after an incredible campaign.

“It has kicked in and we are really embracing it,” Nuske said. “The girls have worked hard all season and it was the perfect reward for all of their dedication and determination over many years. “The vibe and excitement from the girls is next level at the moment.”

Despite the serene nature of the triumph, South did not have it easy on grand final day. Although a strong contested mark and converted set shot from Neave Delaney in the pocked put the Demons on the board first, Kyby was more than up for the fight.

On home turf with a passionate crowd behind them, the Kybybolite players brought the pressure up to the fancied Demons. Hard tackles and intercept marks from the likes of Ella Jones and Anna Hawkins slowed South’s trademark ball movement for the remainder of the opening term.

Della Hannaford used to pace to create the perfect chance for Kybybolite to level the scores, but shanked the chance out of bounds. However, she rectified the mistake just seconds later with a simple successful set shot to put Kyby on the board.

The home side continued its momentum all the way to the quarter time siren and the large crowd contemplated the thought of an upset win. Trailing by one point at the first break, Demons’ leadership group member Kendell Saffin said it was no surprise to see Kybybolite race out of gates. “We always knew Kyby was going to bring it and the game was never going to be easy,” she said.

“They had their home crowd and are a fantastic side, but it was great we rose to the challenge.” When play resumed both sides struggled to score as their respective backlines stood up to stop all the entries.

However, Kybybolite could not keep up the pressure as South’s class shone through. Melaine Bateman broke the seven-minute deadlock with a long-range set shot and although Hannaford kicked her second goal, the Demons were away.

Claudia Edmonds’ speed off the flank created a goal from nowhere before Jasmine White found the goals from point blank range to steady the minor premiers’ ship on the cusp of the main break.

Armed with a 13-point lead, South stole the limelight in the second half and dominated possession. Despite the odd sprinkling of rain, Kyby could not match the Demons’ fast running and direct kicking.

Delaney and Bateman both doubled their goal count with the latter’s arriving seconds before the final siren, while Kybybolite could only manage one point across the third and fourth quarters.

Tess Andrews played a vital part in moving South forward and also slowing down Kybybolite and was named best on ground for her daring display in the midfield. Despite the early scare, Saffin said her team mates remained committed to the game plan which proved successful on every occasion throughout the year and it was no different in the decider.

“We settled and regained our team structure and plan of how we like to play,” she said. “There is a lot of pressure in grand finals when they close up, but we had the belief and ability in each other sticking to the process.”

This process implemented by co-coaches Damian Delaney and Michael Frost was one of the key reasons why the Demons were unbeatable. Saffin said it allowed every player to perform their skills with complete freedom and belief in themselves and each other. “It is just about enjoyment and fun,” she said.

“We pushed that with the girls and made sure every week everyone is having a great time. “We like to create a positive and encouraging environment getting around each other and that did not change for the grand final.”

Amazingly only seven members of South’s 2017 premiership side won a second trophy four years later, while the team lost eight players from the outfit which dominated the 2020 COVID affected season. In an ominous warning for the rest of the competition Nuske said the Demons are tighter than ever and will return next year just as formidable.

“We will go out again and keep maintaining that strong positive and encouraging environment,” she said. “We will put our plans and processes in place and hope to put together another strong season.”

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