Top sides face off for football glory

This time last year the Veolia Limestone Coast Women’s Football League was cut short prematurely, but there are no such concerns in 2021 as all roads lead to Kybybolite for the grand final.

The South Gambier Demons have been in a league of their own all season, but how will they cope with the pressure of a grand final? Can the home crowd inspire Kybybolite to pull off a miraculous upset and a second trophy in three attempts? All these questions plus many more will be answered when the rivals face off for the holy grail this Sunday.

South Gambier and Kyby have been the two leading sides since the opening bounce back in February and have earnt their grand final berths. But the Demons are the overwhelming favourites having taken the women’s football world by storm this year.

Not a single has been close to the fearless South side, which has thrived on the gameplay inspired by coach Damian Delaney. The team’s perfect run culminated with a crushing semi-final annihilation of Kalangadoo at McLaughlin Park last Sunday.

The Magpies had their wings clipped from the get go as the Demons charged inside 50 in wave after wave. South’s initial burst was fronted by the inspirational Kendell Saffin, who signed off the opening term in style by pouncing on a contested ball, bursting out the pack and slotting an one-the-run goal from long range seconds before the siren.

With the gutsy efforts of Alice Tentye and Tess Andrews in the centre, Kalangadoo hardly received a sniff and the scoreboard read eight goals, nine 57 to 0 at the main break. A 100-point thumping was on the cards, but Saffin was forced to go off in the third term, while the Magpies made their only addition to the scoreboard – a behind.

Jasmine White enjoyed herself inside 50 slotting four majors, while Tara Jeffree fought hard for Kalangadoo. In the end a 93-point triumph thrusted South into the decider and captain Kaylene Nuske said her team thrived on the finals atmosphere. “Being a final there was a real sense of excitement and buzz around the place, so we were very grateful to be in the semi-final,” she said. “We had a plan and I guess we executed and achieved just that.”

The Demons have not been part of the big dance since winning the inaugural LCWFL title back in 2017. Nuske knows what it takes having been part of the successful team, but said the current crop of players will not get carried away by the build up and focus on the job in hand instead.

“We will play to the game and not the occasion,” she said. “We will go into the weekend like we have with every other game focusing on our process and plan.”

Kybybolite on the other hand endured a much bumpier ride to the decider. The side only suffered one defeat to South in the home-and-away season, but had to dig deep to overcome Penola Sunday’s semi-final. In a low-scoring contest, little separated the foes with Kyby just seven points ahead at the main break.

But Kybybolite broke free in the third term led by two goals to Dellie Brown to push the lead to a game-high 20 points. Unfortunately the “premiership quarter” was marred by a horrifying incident behind the play. But the players remained focused on the game and the Eagles gave Kyby a scare with a late charge.

Two goals from Aidene Parr pushed Penola to within two kicks, but Kybybolite held on thanks to Tyler Atkinson and Ella Jones. Coach Luke Crossing admitted he was relived to get over the line. “We were just happy to get the win at the end of the day,” he said. “Penola is a very strong outfit and when you are playing to get into the grand final everyone goes a bit harder.

“The girls opened the game up in the third quarter, but to Penola’s credit, they did most of the attacking in the last quarter, so we were lucky to hold on.” Although the trophy is just one win away, Crossing is aware of mountain his team must climb to overcome South, which defeated his girls 60-7 earlier in the year.

“South has been the form team of the last two years for a reason, but anything can happen on grand final day,” he said. “We are certainly the underdogs and must play our very best to have a chance.”

However, Kyby has one ace up its sleeve – the home ground advantage which includes a 248km round trip for the Demons. “If anyone would say they did not enjoy the home ground advantage they would be lying,” Crossing said. “If we can get a little one% from the crowd that would be great. “But the two top teams will do their best and at the end of the day it is about who wants it more.”

The 2021 decider will kick off at 2pm, while the Magpies and Eagles will fight for third place at 12.30pm and an Under 16’s contest will open proceedings. Last weekend Casterton Sandford overcame Mundulla in an entertaining battle for fifth, while North Gambier breezed past Millicent to secure seventh.

The LCFL also took place at McLaughlin Park and home town hero Ella Little was awarded with the top gong. The Millicent goal kicker won the best and fairest count with 15 votes and also claimed the best Under 21 player of the season award.

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