By Michael Roberts | posted on September 27, 2020
ROYALS’ League side are back-to-back GSFL premiers after weathering a third quarter fight-back from Denmark-Walpole to run out convincing 44-point winners on Saturday afternoon.
Silky small forward Jayson Ford was all class for the Lions, finishing the day with four goals and the Alan Barnett Medal for best-on-ground.
On a windy day at Centennial Stadium, Royals led at every break as they dominated the midfield battle and inside-50 count to cap off a brilliant season undefeated.
The score line would have looked ugly if Denmark-Walpole didn’t rally in the third term, with the Magpies held goalless for the entire first half.
Coming off a famous underdog victory over Railways in the preliminary final, the Magpies were flat early on in Saturday’s Grand Final, as usually class players made some simple mistakes.
Big forward Stephen Beal was proving a handful early on, kicking two first quarter goals for Royals as they battled against a strong cross-ground breeze that slightly favoured the Magpies’ end.
The fancied Lions didn’t take their foot off the pedal in the second term, with the Magpies struggling to set up opportunities in attack.
Running out for his 200th League game, milestone man Rhys Jones was a standout down back for Royals, while teammate Hamish McMorran made some crucial intercept marks.
Denmark-Walpole continued to pay the price for their skill errors as they turned the ball over from a defensive kick-out to gift Tom Maslen a running goal at the 14-minute mark.
When Ford slotted home from a set-shot towards the end of the second term, Royals had opened up a 41-point lead by half-time.
Declan McNamara was running riot through the middle of the ground for the Lions, while Co-Captain Alec Haskins was one of the few shining lights for the Magpies.
Playing in their first Grand Final since 2012, the Magpies looked down-and-out heading into the second half but lifted themselves off the canvas in a highly entertaining third-quarter that breathed life into the contest.
Jaden Guidi brought the Centennial Stadium crowd to their feet with a spectacular pack mark in the goal square, before Matthew Dykes steered a running shot through the big sticks to reduce the margin to five goals.
When Shayne Zanetti nailed a set shot moments later, Denmark-Walpole had three on-the-trot.
But their momentum was brought to a halt at the 11-minute mark when Ford responded with a sensational snap to calm a few nerves in the Royals stands.
Jayden Woods gave Denmark-Walpole a glimmer of hope heading into the final quarter after a miracle goal on the boundary reduced the margin to 17-points.
But it was all one-way in the fourth term as Royals made the most of a strong breeze.
Ford kicked a major round his body at the seven-minute mark, before lively forward Brody Ogle snagged two more to hand Royals a momentous 13.11 (89) to 7.3 (45) victory.
Speaking to the Weekender immediately after the game, dual premiership coach Andrew Ruck said his unbeaten side had the perfect mix of young and old.
“We’ve got so much depth,” he said.
“Coming into today, I thought Denmark would have to be really lucky to beat us.
“We are lucky, we’ve had 7-8 of our guys come back from Perth. Other clubs need to take note: it’s so important to look after your juniors.
“When our juniors go away, they come back to us.”
Ruck praised Alan Barnett Medallist Jayson Ford for his match-winning performance.
“He has never been happier, that’s the best thing,” he said.
“It is great to see him get the reward. He’s always smiling and bringing a lot of energy to the group.”