It’s over. The Blackwood Football Club has ended its 26 year drought, winning the 2017 Hills Football League A-Grade Premiership. The match at Thomas Foods International Park (Lobethal Oval) saw the Woods win by four points in a nail-biting affair. The win marks the first A Grade premiership for the Blackwood Football Club in 26 seasons and ended years of heartache for the club.
After being the best two sides all season, Blackwood and Hahndorf met each other in the 2017 Grand Final. Before the match the sides ranked one and two retrospectively across most statistics in 2017 having the best attacks, defences and winning the most quarters for the season. The sides matched up evenly against each other with the Woods having an average 2 cm height advantage across the field but averaged 2.1 kg less. The Woods viewed this as an advantage as being able to cover the wide expanses of the Lobethal deck was a key to coming away with a victory.
Blackwood made one change to their preliminary final side with centre-half back Daniel Bennetts coming back into the side in the place of Jan Warbout. For the Magpies, they made one change with tall defender Brad Dubois coming into the side in the place of youngster Kane Malchow. Blackwood had the first win of the day, with Captain Kurt Thompson winning the toss and electing to kick to the scoreboard end of the ground with the aid of the strong breeze at the venue. Blackwood made a slow start to the term allowing Hahndorf to control the play for the first ten minutes of the match. The Magpies raised the first goal of the match in the third minute courtesy of power forward Darcy Hourigan who kicked his 87th goal for the season. Hahndorf were zoning behind the ball well not allowing the Woods any easy ball movement from the half back line.
When Hahndorf got their second goal of the match in the 12th minute, the large group of Woods supporters were getting anxious. As time on of the quarter approached Blackwood finally was able to move the club room side of the venue to a three-on-one inside 50. The ball hit the deck falling into the arms of a Magpies player but with ferocious tackler Daniel Benson in the area, he was able to cause a turn over allowing the ball to spill out the back to Michael Minuzzo who soccered the ball off the deck for the Woods first goal. Blackwood got two more goals for the quarter through Jess Watchman who received a free kick for holding on and Matt Tuck who was found in space after the Woods moved the ball forward with control in the 25th minute. When quarter time siren blew, the Woods had settled and lead 3.3.21 to 2.3.15
Michael Minuzzo gives off a handball to Haydn Kenny
Nick Homburg kicks the ball into the forward 50
Both coaches addressed their players at the first change being positive about how they had played. Blackwood coach Damien Salievic said “we’ve worked our way into the game in the second part of that quarter. We must continue to bring that intensity and not allow them time to dispose of the ball.” The second quarter started much like the first with Hahndorf controlling the early part of the play. The Blackwood defence lead by Scott Bricknell held strong in the first part of the term repelling any of the attacking forays from Hahndorf. It took until the 7th minute of the term for the opening goal of the term to be scored. It came about when former Adelaide Crow Matthew Jaensch received a free kick after being collected high in a tackle, much the dismay of all the Woods players and supporters in the venue. Blackwood held strong and moved the ball forward in the next part of the term with full-forward Jake Atkinson bobbing in the 12th minute. Once again the umpires were in the game awarding Atkinson a free kicking after being pushed in the back by his Hahndorf defender. He went back from 40 metres out straight in front and kicked the Woods fourth goal of the match. When Jess Watchman and Phil Hopton scored goals in the 16th and 21st minutes the Woods had extended their lead to three goals and looked on top in the game being able to get out the back of the Hahndorf zone through quicker leg speed. Hahndorf got a goal in the 25th minute through Matt Buckley to draw the margin back to three points when the half time siren sounded.
Blackwood left the ground quickly at the half time break with a loud applause of the supporters who had gathered at the entry point to the oval whilst Hahndorf decided that having a chat to the umpires was the best approach with Craig Smith having to be pulled back by one of his players. It appeared Hahndorf were down to 20 fit players with half back Brad Dubois being carried off in the latter part of the second quarter with an injury to his lower left leg. As he was not taken off through the interchange gates, by the letter of the law he shouldn’t have been allowed back on the ground.
Ryan Dijksman celebrates a goal
Jake Atkinson looks to lay a tackle
Both sides came out refreshed for the ‘premiership’ quarter knowing if they could perform well in this period they could potentially set up a victory. Blackwood had performed well in third quarters against top 5 sides in 2017 winning seven of the eleven they had played. Big man Jess Watchman got into the game in the 5th minute of the quarter taking a strong mark and converting truly to send the Blackwood army into its traditional ‘You Woods” chant. Hourigan then came into the game for Hahndorf scoring the next goal of the match in the 8th minute. He was having a quiet day so far with Scott Bricknell applying a blanket over him whilst the Blackwood midfielders were not allowing any easy kicks to him on the lead.
The next four minutes went along with neither side able to get any significant forward entries. It took for Blackwood to kick long in the direction of Ryan Dijksman for the next goal of the match to be scored. The ball was kicked long inside forward 50 as Dijksman came out on the lead. Being closely changed by defender Ryan Thyer and with Tyson Staples drifting back, it looked as if Hahndorf were going to kill the forward entry. Somehow the ball fell to Dijksman who was able to mark and kick straight to give the Woods their eight goal of the match. No additional goals were scored for the quarter as both sides heavily focused on defence. When the three quarter time siren had sounded the Woods had won the quarter and lead by 10 points.
Kurt Thompson gets up and close with David Hankin
Ryan Anderson gains possession of the ball
The Blackwood army surrounded the huddle at the final break providing that extra bit of encouragement to the players as they were hoping the club was only 25 minutes away from breaking the infamous 26 year premiership drought. Coach Salievic gave his troops one last rev up pulling his players into a tight huddle and whispering from final words of advice. The players broke from the huddle with a loud cheer from the army. With the breeze now blowing directly across the ground it resulted in the play being across the outer side for most of term. Blackwood got an early behind in the quarter through Jess Watchman to extend the lead to 11 points. Hahndorf were beginning to get on top around the midfield and move the ball into the Blackwood defensive end with regularity. Blackwood was holding on for its dear life repelling most entries only for the ball to be intercepted on the way out and kicked back inside 50. Hahndorf failed to take their chances with the wind playing havoc on their set shots. Blackwood managed to move the ball up the field once more for the term with a long kick deep into the 50. The ball took a funny bounce about 3 metres from the goal failing to register a score.
Nothing was falling the Woods way in the final quarter as the game ticked into time on in the final term with Blackwood still holding on to a 5 point lead. With many supporters unable to watch the ball was held on the outer side of the ground for two minutes and the Woods looked to lock up the game. Hahndorf managed to move the ball inside 50 for one last time with 7 seconds on the clock the ball found its way into the hands of David Hankin in the pocket around 40 metres out. The final siren sounded and the hearts of the Woods players, coaches and supporters froze.
James Catford lays a strong tackle
Full back Matt Waldron switches the ball
With the Blackwood army moving quickly down the fence beside Hankin to give him some advice he went back and lined up his shot. Hankin came in and took the most importantly set shot of his career but as it had done all day the breeze got hold of the kick pulling it to the near side as the Blackwood supporters ran onto the ground to embrace with the players. The drought was over. Blackwood were the 2017 Hills Football League A-Grade Premiers.
The after match presentations were a happy place for the Woods with tears of happiness coming from all those who had experienced such heartbreak in the past. The best-on-ground was presented by Blackwood 200 club player David Richardson and was awarded to Scott Bricknell who played an excellent game down back shutting down Darcy Hourigan keeping him to only two goals for the match.
Other players to receive special acknowledgement from the coaching staff were Ryan Anderson who fought his way out of a tag to play a starring role, Nick Homburg who has been a great addition to the side providing a hard-nosed player in the midfield, Jess Watchman who had his best game since returning from West Adelaide to kick three goals and be the dominate forward on the ground and Michael Minuzzo who has had an outstanding season.
The moment the players realise they have won
Best on ground Scott Bricknell looks to take a mark
Overall, the victory ended 26 years of trauma for the Blackwood Football Club. After being eliminated in the 2016 Preliminary Final the senior player group was driven to go that step further. Starting out in November the group put in the hard yards going to a higher level of fitness compared to 2016. Running was a feature of most sessions even during the wet middle period of the season the fitness levels were maintained. This showed during the game with the Woods looking fitter and quicker than their Magpies counterparts. The old saying of ‘bad kicking is bad football’ reared its head once again as Woods were able to take their opportunities when it really mattered kicking the required goals.
The Grand Final also followed the quirks mentioned in the match preview, with the winner of the Preliminary Final winning the Grand Final, no side kicking 15 goals, no individual player kicking four goals and the winner of the best-on-ground (Scott Bricknell) being a player who was named in the best players on at least seven occasions previously across the season. Football is a funny game.
The rest is history, the Blackwood Football Club are the 2017 A Grade Premiers. Go you Mighty Woods.
The players pose for a photo with the flag and premiership cup
The playing squad on stage at the club after the match