Byron players and support crew celebrate the Magpies' 29-point win over Ballina in Saturday's AFL grand final at Oakes Oval, Lismore.
Byron players and support crew celebrate the Magpies' 29-point win over Ballina in Saturday's AFL grand final at Oakes Oval, Lismore. The Northern Star

Byron snatches AFL premiership


BYRON Magpies have over-run the Ballina Bombers to win the 2008 Summerland AFL premiership at Oakes Oval, Lismore, on Saturday.

Aided by a best-on-ground performance by dreadlocked utility Kurt Bullock, the Magpies wore Ballina down over the course of the match to win by 29 points, 13.16 (94) to 9.11 (65), in conditions perfect for football in front of a 1000-strong crowd.

Bullock's commanding display in a variety of positions helped his side bounce back from a shaky first quarter to run out winners and claim back-to-back premierships, the club's 11th from 14 grand finals, and their second in as many years over Ballina.

Byron took control of a match in the balance with a sizzling six-goal third quarter, blanketing Ballina's run with quick and accurate delivery to their forwards.

But it took a quarter-time reminder by Byron coach Jeremy Buultjens for his boys to take their chances and play it a bit smarter after Ballina smashed them in the clearances, where Dale Reyne in the ruck, Mason medallist Travis Clarke in the centre, and youngster Hayden Pedders on the wing gave the Bombers first use of the ball from the middle.

Buultjens was confident that as long as his side remained in touch with the Bombers he'd knew they'd be a chance.

"As long as they didn't get away from us and it was close, I thought we could win this," he said yesterday after celebrating with the players at the Byron Bay Cup races.

"In the last couple of games against them, we've finished on top in the second half and with two key forwards (on Saturday) I thought we'd be a chance."

Not for a second, however, did Buultjens allow himself the luxury of relaxing.

"Ballina are always a chance and we were concerned right throughout the game but we just concentrated on what we were doing and make sure we get our own stuff right," he said.

With Bullock taking charge in the ruck, in defence and wherever else he went, the Magpies capitalised on Ballina's indecision and lack of fluency when going forward.

Byron started their run in the second quarter when Jay Campbell snapped a clever goal from the pocket and Evan Davis landed another from the boundary, while the Byron defence, led superbly by Will Hudson, Paul Craig, Crispin Myres and Tim Fisher, stuck to its guns and played their opponents tight, so tight in fact that the Bombers could only manage 1.7 for the term, the last goal coming when Tim Price kicked his first just before half-time.

Buultjens could at least breathe easy when Doug Perich popped up for a four-goal cameo in the third quarter, where Byron added 6.4 to Ballina's 2.1.

Three quick goals, two of them from Price, in as many minutes at the start of the final quarter had Ballina back within 15 points.

But when the tireless Travis Clarke limped off with a bad ankle injury midway through the quarter, any hope of Ballina staging a late rally went with him.

With a sniff of victory, Byron played it safe and maintained possession and when Perich and Jai Pursell goaled, the issue was beyond doubt.

"It's been a pretty good year, a great year at the club," Buultjens said.

"I always felt if we have a full side to choose from we'd be competitive. I know Ballina will be disappointed, as they were last year."

For the Bombers, it's another chance at a flag gone begging.

The efforts of Clarke, Reyne, Pat Bulzomi and Bell, among their best on Saturday, again going unrewarded on the big stage.


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