Bundoora have made it back-to-back Melbourne Greyhounds Division 1 Grand Final appearances following an outstanding 87-point victory over North Heidelberg in Sunday’s preliminary final at Preston City Oval.
In a highly anticipated battle, it was the Bulls that came charging from the outset. They kept the Bulldogs goalless in the opening half while registering 13 unanswered majors in the same period.
A 10-goal second term and an 80-point half time lead crushed North Heidelberg’s premiership hopes, as Bundoora booked their spot in the decider with a 20.13 (133) to 6.10 (46) victory.
The 87-point result is the equal ninth largest margin ever recorded in a Division 1 final. It’s also the Bulls highest finals score since the 2016 elimination final and their biggest win in a final since the 2011 second semi-final.
It means the Bulls will now have another crack at facing Heidelberg in this year’s Grand Final, where a triumph would confirm their seventh premiership in the NFNL, and their sixth in the top flight.
Hamish Shepheard produced a dominant performance, with the ball constantly finding the hands of one the league’s premier ruck man. Coming up against an in-form Michael Florance, Shepheard had all the answers, winning clearances and giving his midfielders silver service all around the ground.
Jackson Bowne had the ball on a string all game for the Bulls, along with Luke Collins and Sam Lloyd, who once again led the team through their excellent ball use which opened up the ground for numerous scoring opportunities across the board.
Michael Ryan’s men had 10 individual goalkickers for their 20 majors, with tall trio Shaun McKernan, John Jorgensen and Peter McEvoy all producing multiple scoring chances as they finished with 11 goals between them.
Liam Hunt was a standout for the Bulldogs in midfield. While things weren’t going his side’s way, he constantly tried hard to spark momentum, meanwhile Joshua Hamilton stood tall with key interceptive possessions in a backline that was constantly under siege.
It didn’t take long for the scoreboard to start ticking after the opening siren, with Shaun McKernan using the ground gained from a free kick to register the first goal of the game just 30 seconds into the match.
John Jorgensen would start his goal-kicking campaign for the afternoon through a set shot that struck between the posts, while Peter McEvoy followed suit in similar fashion to extend the margin to 21 points.
Struggles from the Bulldogs were reflected in their lack of possessions and inability to keep the ball in their attacking half, but when opportunities did arise it would be their inaccuracy that cost them momentum.
The second term served as a display of attacking excellence from the Bulls. Jorgensen led the way, with his set shot accuracy on full show, as he finished the second term with three majors and the first half with four.
Jackson Bowne would slot through a major after showing flashes of what would become blistering performance, while McKernan returned to the scoring column after a goal of his own.
The Bulls had no trouble maintaining kicking passages up the ground, where they would then look to their wings to set up the leading forwards for chances at goal.
More majors kept on coming for the Bulls, but none more exciting than a thundering snap from 40-metres out by Luke Collins that stretched the lead to 40 points.
Daniel Younan, Kyle Green, and Hamish Shepheard would join in to take full advantage of the momentum by each scoring a goal. McEvoy’s second of the day topped one of the most blistering terms in finals history, as Bundoora led by 80 points at the main break.
With the game sewn up, the Bulldogs would be the first to find the big sticks in the second half, as Cooper Bugeja and Majak Daw both struck true from set distance.
However, Michael Ryan’s side wasn’t done yet and it would show through their quick passages of play down the middle of the ground, which quickly paid off through majors from McKernan, Younan and Jedd Longmire.
The Bulls reached a game high lead of 98 points midway through the final term, but North Heidelberg continued to play with pride, as Liam Nunan, Joshua Hamilton and Daw each kicked a major in the last quarter.
Lloyd’s second goal of the game ensured Bundoora won all four quarters again, signaling a massive 87-point victory.