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RIVERLAND FOOTBALL 2012

(Teams: RFL - Barmera/Monash, Berri, Loxton, Loxton North, Renmark and Waikerie)

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BEST TEAM EVER

LOXTON NORTH TOO STRONG IN 2011 GRAND FINAL

By Nick Kossatch at Loxton North

Loxton North broke a seven-year hoodoo by thrashing Waikerie to the tune of 42 points in the RFL Grand Final at Loxton North. The Magpies dominated the play early with skipper Ben Venning booting the first goal of the match with the wind and it seemed the Panthers were in for a tough afternoon against its finals-hardened opponents.

Itdid not take long for the home side to kick into gear by doing what they have been all season and that is using its skills and pace. Speedy wingman Andrew Baker (three goals) sparked the confidence into his team by slotting through a goal on the run in front of the scoreboard. North’s array of runners; Jamie Ferguson, captain Josh Nelson and defender Ryan Gray inflicted damage and despite Venning booting his second goal to have Anton Cook nervous, the Panthers were 10 points in front at quarter time.

Waikerie lifted with the wind in the early part of the second quarter when Justin Dellazoppa goaled from a free kick and gun midfielder Tim Bevan won important touches. Wunkar recruit Nathan Brown showed all why Loxton North were seeking the youngster’s services. The youngster sharked a loose ball behind the pack to snare a goal and his team-mates work-rate went up a notch. Champion defender Michael Arnold was a springboard from defence launching into attack with either his strong marks or runs down the ground and Brad Mules kept danger man AndrewBachmann quiet.

Veteran Nathan Tape struggled to have much input for Waikerie but in contrast Ryan Proud found the ball some 12 times in the second quarter and his superb goal into the wind sent alarm bells through the Magpie camp at the start of the third term. The much-improved Rhett Davis took a majestic pack mark and following goal to bring the pro-North crowd into rapture. Michael Bratton led the way for the Waikerie midfielders to follow and Cameron Hawke was a foil for Venning though Hawke did not trouble the scorers.

Steven Braun was on top of leading goal kicker Geordie Franks who appeared frustrated in the second term. Franks got his turn by ‘losing’ the tight-checking solidly built Braun with a goal as a result from a terrific switch of play from Cook at the opposite end of the ground.

Heavy rain began falling at three quarter time and it could be said North’s lead was equivalent to 62-points instead of 31. Despite an early goal for Dellazoppa’s second, the retiring Brad Williams, so much the heart and soul of this proud football club, booted two in a fairytale finale for the skilled utility. If that was not good enough, the best on ground Michael Arnold kicked a goal to top off a grand game while Franks nailed his second amidst a crowd that was poised to party.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: The once maligned Rhett Davis took a classical pack mark in the second term to post a goal. Davis’ improvement mirrored his team’s rise from also ran to premiers.

TURNING POINT: Andrew Baker’s scorching running goals for two goals in front of the scoreboard then later from a blistering run down the wing in the first quarter set the tone for Loxton North.

BEST ON GROUND: Panther warrior Michael Arnold did it all on the biggest stage to establish himself as the most influential RFL player seen in years. Spoils, marks, dash from defence, the big Panther even showed desperation when the game was lost for Waikerie with two smothers and he capped off a champion’s game with a late game goal.

Grand Final Scoreboard - September 10, 2011

Loxton North                       4.2,  7.3,  9.6,  13.7  (85)

Waikerie                                2.4,  3.10,  3.11,  5.13  (43)

GOALS, Loxton North  :  Andrew Baker 3, Geordie Franks 2, Brad Williams 2, Ryan Proud 1, Rhett Davis 1, Nathan Brown 1, Michael       Arnold 1, Tim Roberts 1.  Waikerie  : Ben Venning 5, Justin Dellazoppa 2.  BEST, Loxton North  : Michael       Arnold, Brad Mules, Ryan Proud, Andrew Baker, Brad Williams, Anton Cook.  Waikerie  : Michael Bratton, Timothy Bevan, Rob Smyth, Steven Braun, Craig Miller, Luke Horner