Kiewa Sandy Creek ended Thurgoona’s hopes of joining the league’s elite with a convincing 38-point grand final win on Saturday.
The Hawks set up the victory early, outscoring the Bulldogs despite kicking against a stiff breeze, and always held the lead in the 14.16 (100) to 9.8 (62) win in front of a Sandy Creek crowd of more than 5000.
The Bulldogs were looking to become just the fourth team in the TDFL’s 73-year history to win three or more successive flags.
Mitta United is the only club to win four straight, from 2004.
The Hawks have now won four in the past decade.
“I thought we started really well, we controlled the contests,” jubilant coach Adam Mudra said.
“I thought our backline was terrific, our backline’s been our strength all season, statistically they’ve been the best six.
“And our back six not only defended really well, but offensively they gave us a lot of rebound and run.”
Andrew Cardwell was outstanding, keeping veteran forward Matt Fowler – who kicked nine goals in last year’s 85-point win over Kiewa – goalless.
“I knew not to wrestle with him because he’s a lot bigger than me, I just stayed off him and used my hops (leap),” the 198cm, 90kg fullback said.
Jason Bartel opened the scoring in the third minute when he swooped on a Bulldogs’ tap out.
Big man Guy Telford also landed an opportunistic goal six minutes later and while Bulldogs’ co-coach Jayden Kotzur replied when he received a 50m free kick late in the term, the Hawks’ nine-point lead at quarter-time proved crucial.
The classy Kotzur reduced the margin to two points early in the second with a trademark finish, but the Hawks kicked the next three to open a strong lead.
Jake Bruce cleverly kept the ball low in the breeze to cut the margin to three majors, but goals either side of that to Cal Turner, who was left unmarked 40m out, and Cam Evans, who was one of numerous Hawks at the fall of the ball, effectively sealed the result.
If Thurgoona was going to launch a comeback, it needed to utilise the wind and Kade Brown’s second early cut the deficit to 16 points, but the Hawks always had a response.
Brown and the livewire Bartel finished with four goals apiece, but while the Hawks had eight goalkickers, including three from Jake Hicks, the Bulldogs had only three, with Kotzur snaring that many.
The strong wind naturally affected the skills, with kicks holding up and making it difficult for players.
The gate was $39,150.
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