Last year’s EDFA grand finalists faced up for the third time this year out at Gibson Oval on Saturday, and the crowd were treated to a hard fought game with the home side pulling away in the final quarter to win by six goals.
The sides may have been surprised to see both captains at the coin toss, with last year’s Hepburn Medallist Brendon White returning from a lengthy stint on the sidelines because of an ankle injury. Gibson’s Patch Jannings, the runner up in the Hepburn last year, played this game after injuring his knee against the Doggies in round 2. The former would show his dedication to the red and white by playing his second game for the day, running out of full forward for both the reserves and the league side.
The opening quarter set the tone for the game as both teams fired shots. Jannings would hit the scoreboard in his first game back with a beautiful crumbing goal, his first of three for the game in a return that would greatly please supporters and coaching staff alike. Young player Sammy Johnston would kick a beauty on the run and be a handful to contain for the entirety of the match. For the Bulldogs Davis and Edwards looked dangerous up forward and would continue to worry the Tigers defenders all afternoon.
The three goals to nil second quarter for Gibson would be the one that would break the game open and make it an arduous task for the away side as the two went into the rooms at half time 26 points apart. Needless to say the contested nature of the game meant there were some niggles out there, which would have had supporters (and players) tongues wagging.
The Bulldogs showed their toughness with a brilliant third quarter where they outscored the Tigers, kicking three quick goals to scare the locals. Brayden Wood has to be a smoky for the Hepburn this year, demonstrating his skills with a fearsome attack on the pill and the man.
As it turned out, Gibson had a few too many midfield rotations, with Staunton and Stewart running over the Doggies midfield battery who contested hard all day. Gibson kicked the final three goals of the day to seal the match. Special mention to Gibson’s defenders who held strong despite some promising Esperance thrusts. The back six kept their opponents scoreless in the second and fourth quarters.
Theirs upside for both sides. White will only get better and could be the X-factor pushing the Dogs towards another Grand Final birth. Gibson will be hanging out for some injured players to return, especially to their midfield, which has been gutted in previous weeks.
Patch talked about his return and the game on the Sean for Breakfast Show, 13 minutes in