HISTORY was made last weekend when the WAFL combined team beat the VFL at tiny North Port Oval in Port Melbourne. It was the first time a representative senior team from WA’s major state league has defeated the Big V in Victoria. Given the restrictions of time, player availability and club cooperation, WA coach Michael Broadbridge and his crew planned this campaign very effectively. Rather than be spooked by the little ground and possible helpful conditions they selected a team to suit. There were those with experience in the VFL like Ryan Cook, Leigh Kitchen, Jye Bolton, Lachlan Delahunty, Leroy Jetta and Kirk Ugle; proven big game performers like Clancy Wheeler and Ben Saunders; and an assortment of the WAFL’s best midfielders Kyal Horsley, Tim Kelly, Shane Nelson, Haiden Schloithe, Jonathan Marsh and Aaron Black. But it wasn’t about the names – the emphasis, it seems, was on the team.
WA started well but midway through the first quarter the Vics seemed to get their ball movement going and were looking ominous – the threat was quelled and the home team led by just two points at quarter time despite kicking with a strong breeze. With a seemingly strange combination of hard in-close work in the midfield and an open forward line WA took control in the second quarter with Saunders, out of form in the WAFL in recent weeks, kicking three goals. Saunders has perhaps confused opponents, coaches and talent scouts in the past because he’s not tall enough to be a key forward and too big to be a small forward. However he can take a big mark, is very strong in one-on-one contests, surprisingly nimble and and can kick the ball a mile. He finished with 6.7.
When the VFL couldn’t score early goals in the third quarter the game was effectively over and when the goals did come the WAFL scored six to three into the breeze.
This was a brilliant team performance by WA with only Kyle Anderson, forced off with a shoulder injury in the first quarter, unable to make a meaningful contribution. Saunders, who had 13 kicks, won the Simpson Medal as the WAFL’s best player, Jordan Lockyer was superb in defence, Horsley and Nelson set the scene early in the midfield, Kelly showed some of his clearance tricks, Jack Bradshaw and Schloithe each kicked three goals, Wheeler was effective as a forward and the effort of Mitch Andrews in the ruck was vital.
Classy midfielder Tom O’Sullivan won the Frank Johnson Medal as the VFL’s best player, Matt Hanson set up a number of forward moves, Sam Switkowski kicked two goals and always looked dangerous and Tom Goodwin battled it out in the ruck.
WA first played Victoria in Victoria in 1904 so this win was a long time coming.
WAFL 20.14 (134) VFL 10.11 (71)
NOTE: WA has recorded interstate victories over Victoria … in 1947 in Hobart and 1961 in Brisbane.