Wollongong Bulldogs shake up AFL South Coast finals picture

Rising high: Bentley Murphy played in Saturday's victory over Wollongong Lions at Keira Oval. Picture:  Adam McLean
Rising high: Bentley Murphy played in Saturday's victory over Wollongong Lions at Keira Oval. Picture: Adam McLean

Wollongong Bulldogs coach Lee Murray looked around the room and knew few had experienced the feeling before. 

What was the biggest rivalry in the AFL South Coast a couple of years ago, the turnover in personnel meant most of the Dogs players were yet to taste victory over the premiers.

But in a result which has blown open the premiership race, the Bulldogs sealed a 13.7 (85) to 9.8 (62) win over the Lions at Keira Oval. 

“About 95 per cent of the boys had never beaten them,” Murray said. 

“So it’s a big win, we needed it, it will do great things for our confidence.

“And not just to beat the Lions but to put it all together, probably for the first time this season.

“Hopefully we’re putting it together at the right time.”

James Morsanuto booted four goals for the Dogs, who had six goalkickers, while Ben Melton was best-on-ground for his tagging role on Lions star midfielder Lachie Maples.

With key forward James Adamson still to come back, former Northern Districts and Shellharbour player Ramez Dagher put his hand up for finals selection with six goals for the Lions. 

The Dogs are already locked in for an elimination final against Figtree in a fortnight and the Roos continued their impressive late-season form with a 27.15 (177) to 6.5 (41) win over Northern Districts.

Kiama are guaranteed the minor premiership after beating Shellharbour 15.8 (98) to 6.4 (40), booting five goals to none in the final term. 

Meanwhile, the Wollongong Saints will be out to keep their AFL Sydney premiership defence alive, as the club also plays in the first ever South Coast Women’s final on the same day.

The Saints finished with the minor premiership in the Sydney women’s division one competition, but have been forced into the preliminary final after going down to Western Magic by 13 points on Sunday. 

The Saints led early, but were outgunned in the final quarter, suffering a 6.5 (41) to 4.4 (28) loss, just their second all year.

GWS Giants development prospect Rylee McGartland booted two for the Saints, as Jenny Stanton and Laura Donnelly were among their best.

The Saints second-tier team, playing the AFL South Coast’s inaugural women’s league, will meet Wollongong Bulldogs in an elimination final on Saturday at North Dalton Park. 

The Saints finished fourth, while the Dogs are fifth, having beaten third-placed Lions by 10 points in the last round.