Dingos Grind their way into Grand Finals
The Toronto Dingos will return to the Grand Finals for the first time since 2010 after claiming a two-goal victory over the Toronto Rebels, in what was the most grueling and physical match all season long. Despite leading on the scoreboard the entire game, the Red and Black had to endure a seemingly endless storm of Rebel-assaults (no pun intended) that demanded the very best of every man on the field for four long quarters. The match is yet another chapter in a long, healthy rivalry between the two clubs, and acted as a small piece of revenge from the thumping the Dingos received earlier in the 2013 season.
Simply put, the story of the first half for the Red and Black was defense. Faced with the big stage of Finals Footy, the Dingo backline showed its true grit in the first half, grinding out every possession the Rebels had and holding their opponents to just two scoring shots after two quarters. After an early goal went to each side, the physical side of the game kicked into high gear, with minute-long scrums and more than a few ball-ups wearing down both sides as pill was shared fairly evenly. But it was the Dingo backline that held firm, playing with a pack mentality when it came to defending the big bodies of the Rebel forward line and rebounding the footy to the mids and forwards.
Time and again, Mal Brady would escape a pack with a crucial disposal, or Shaun McKay would pump it forward with his long clearance kicks, or Dave Wells would spoil a mark in the hotspot, and the Dingos would be off in numbers, trying to make good on their hard work. For their part, the mids - led by returning ruckman D'Arcy Hill - were battling just as hard through the mid-field, having some luck on the taps and using that advantage to put the pressure on the Rebel backline. At the same time, the notoriously big boot of Rebel fullback Sean Duffy forced the Dingo midfielders to play smart on the kick-outs and contain any forward push. Max Parish and James Duggan were crucial in this regard, having the key defensive assignments, while the big body of Anthony O'Brien was often in the line of fire.
As for the forwards, they made good on what was given them, with big Wade Edwards and Tom Bell going up strong while Rainer Haycraft and Craig Stewart made the Rebels pay on the crumbs. The Dingos emerged at half-time battered and bruised, but also holding strong with 3-goal lead.
If the first half was physical, the second half was nothing short of war, as the increasingly desperate Rebels continued to grind away at the Dingo backline. Despite the Dingos again going 5-scoring-shots-to-1 in the 3rd quarter, the feeling was the Rebels could rip off two quick goals (as they did in the 4th) at the smallest mistake, nullifying all the hard work done so far. It was at this point that the advange of having past Flag winners on the field was truly felt, as the veteran leadership of Wellsy, Stewy, Chris Buczkowski, Yoni Moussadji and Bob Clarke tipped the scales in those crucial moments, helping avoid any such mistakes. And once again, the backline held firm, allowing the Rebels just their second major of the match while the forwards extended things to a 4-goal advantage.
With everything on the line, the Dingos left it all on the field in the 4th, and a few key moments stand out: 1) a massive smother by Ramsey Blacklock on big Sean Duffy at the Dingo 50m line (while standing on the mark, no less) that was an almost sure goal for the Rebs; 2) two heart-pounding, nail-biting, scrambling goals by Tom Bell in the forward line, one of them coming a terrific pickup by Shauny (who was technically a half-back at the time), and 3) the sweet, sweet relief of the final siren that heralded the end, and a return to the Grand Finals.
While just about every player on the field that day had a moment that stood out among the rest, best on ground mentions went to D'Arcy, Maxy and Jimmy, while the BOG honour was split between Stewy and Mal. Congratulations also are in order for Justin Robertson, who along with playing a fantastic game, has the honor of leading his team to a Grand Final in his first season as coach. And last but not least, congratulations to the club itself, who had a massive 42 players available between Divs 1 and 2 for this match, a sign of a strong and thriving club.
DINGOS - 7.7-49
REBELS - 5.3-33
DINGO GOALS: Stewy 3, Tom Bell 2, Wade, OB
DINGO BOG: Mal Brady and Craig Stewart
Match details can be found here, while photos can be seen on the Dingo Facebook page. The Dingos 2013 campaign continues for one more week, as they move on to face the Broadview Hawks in the 2013 AFLO Grand Finals.