SYDNEY AFL GRAND FINAL - East Coast Win Premiership Glory

Article and Photos by Michael Shillito


The One Day in September that we want to remember had come; and Sydney footy's biggest day saw East Coast Eagles taking on Uni NSW-Eastern Suburbs. East Coast had the easiest run to qualify for the grand final, playing only the one final; and were attempting to create a slice of history with their first Premier Division title. UNSW-ES bounced back from a Qualifying Final defeat to win the First Semi Final and Preliminary Final, and after having not won a final for the five years the playoffs were played at Henson Park were going for three in a row at Blacktown.

The run of fine weather for the finals series continued, with sunshine and blue skies greeting the players as they ran on. Blacktown Olympic Park was looking a treat. Local schools provided the pre-match entertainment with a drum band and choir; the national anthem was sung, and the roar as the final note came up of the anthem saw the anticipation reach fever pitch.


In Troy Luff's distinguished career, one accolade that has eluded him is to play in a premiership team. But the veteran Bulldog got the game off to the perfect start for his team with a mark and goal in the pocket before 30 seconds had gone. A minute later, Luff was again in the thick of the action, taking a hit-out from a boundary throw-in to set up Marc O'Regan, but the shot hit the post. A running Daniel Spiteri got the Eagles on the board, but when O'Regan on the lead got away from Rowan Bilkey to mark and goal at 12 minutes, the Bulldogs were leading by 8 points.

But the second half of the quarter saw the Eagles begin to assert themselves, their running game taking effect and their shots hitting their target. Luke Stanford collected the ball on the win, and with a run, bounce and long bomb found Gus Seebeck to put the ton-kicking club President on the scoreboard.  Ben Physick landed another goal from a free. The centre break saw Vlatko set up Gus Seebeck, but his kick was a shocker which barely scraped a point. As the clock ticked into time-on, Spiteri drilled a set shot from just inside the 50m line and the Eagles took a 12-point lead into the first change.


The first 10 minutes of the second term would be pivotal to the outcome of the game. In that time, the Eagles would score four unanswered goals, all of them from Gus Seebeck. With every goal, his arms were raised in celebration as a chance to build an imposing lead was scented. His team-mates would feed off his enthusiasm, with pin-point delivery finding the big number 4 during a passage of play when the Eagles would create a lead that the Bulldogs would be unable to peg back.

The Bulldogs finally got on the board on 13 minutes through Brad Abbott, but Aaron Byerlee had an instant reply. Leigh Lavery goaled with a shot that only just crossed the line, but Ben Rogers from the pocket got the lead back. Brad Ure with a long bomb added another. In the dying stages of the quarter, Ryan Underwood had some luck; firstly being paid a mark that must have been only held long enough by a micro-second and then being paid a free for a high tackle after being caught playing on. Had Underwood converted both goals, the deficit would have been under 5 goals, but sadly for the Bulldogs he was only able to manage one.


If UNSW-ES were to have any hopes of a comeback grand final win, they needed to win the third quarter. But despite a bright opening to the quarter with a run of successive goals in quick succession by Ben Woods and Earl Shaw, the Eagles continued to extend their lead. Again it was Gus Seebeck who was the killer, with four goals for the quarter, all four of them coming from strong marks within easy goal-scoring distance. Seebeck was playing with his confidence sky-high, outmarking as many opponents as would dare attempt to spoil him.

As the quarter went on, nearby bushfire hazard burns began to blow smoke over the ground. The sky had become orange and a smoke haze enveloped the ground. But on the field the Eagles were also on fire, and their nostrils detected a scent of victory. Urged on by an increasingly vocal supporter base both within the grandstand and on the northern hill, the lead had blows out to 47 points by the last change. UNSW-ES continued to try hard, and did manage five goals for the quarter, but it was nowhere near enough to keep them in the contest.


By the time the last quarter started the result was beyond doubt. But there was still some more key moments for the Eagles to observe before the premiership celebrations would commence. Ed Wilson had departed the field earlier; but in a show of courage reminiscent of Rick McCosker in the 1977 Centenary Test would return to the action with a heavily bandaged jaw, his presence providing another lift to the Eagles on a day when everything was going their way. And in the dying minutes of the game, Gus Seebeck would dribble through goal number 10; a rare double-figure haul in a Grand Final and would bring his season total to 111. Seebeck's dominance of the forward line would see him awarded the Podbury Medal for best on ground in the Grand Final.
When the final siren sounded, the Eagles had taken out the match by 54 points. Seebeck had 10, Daniel Spiteri had kicked 3; Seebeck, Jon Vlatko and Ben Bourke being among their best. On a disappointing day for UNSW-ES, Adrian Heffernan, Ben Sutton and Alex Henderson had been among their key contributors. After the siren, the Eagles players and their supporters would launch into scenes of wild celebration; while just metres away from the ecstacy was the agony, as the distraught Bulldogs slumped the ground in despair.

The season had been a triumph for the Eagles. Known for being well-run off the field, the Eagles had long struggled with the lack of their own home ground and premiership glory, despite many close calls, had eluded them. But in 2009, the Year of the Eagle, all that had changed. The Eagles now have a Premier Division flag to fly on the pole at Bruce Purser - setting a new benchmark that other clubs will need to work hard to match in 2010. The premiership medallions and the cup were presented, launching long-awaited celebrations for the Eagles that will continue for many days to come.


East Coast Eagles   4.3   11.3   18.7   22.12 (144)

Uni NSW-Eastern Suburbs   2.3   5.6   10.8   13.12 (90)

Goals : East Coast - G Seebeck 10, D Spiteri 3, A Byerlee 2, R Fitton, B Physick, B Ure, B Rogers, G Garner, L Stanford, R Smyth. UNSW-ES - L Lavery 2, B Abbott, P Kefalas, J Bradfield, E Shaw, T Luff, R Underwood, S Pech, A Heffernan, M O'Regan, M Beardsley, B Woods.

Best : East Coast - G Seebeck, J Vlatko, B Bourke, L Stanford, B Ure, D Spiteri. UNSW-ES - A Heffernan, B Sutton, A Henderson, D Ward, R Jones, T Luff.

Umpires - D Anderson, M Gestier, F Kalayzich.

At Blacktown Olympic Park, Saturday 19th September 2009.


UTS had been undefeated throughout their Division One campaign, and continued to take all before them with a comprehensive 99-point victory in the Grand Final. The Bats locked the Eagles out of the contest, holding them to just a solitary goal in the first half and putting the icing on the cake with an 8-goal third quarter.

Tom Chadwick kicked 8 goals for the Bats, and was awarded the best-on-ground medal. Steven Neal was also in outstanding form up forward with a bag of 5, while Simon Fitzgerald and Andrew Keith were among their best.  The Eagles were well held all day, but James Mann and Andrew Polkinghorne continued to work hard. In the first year of the divisional structure, the Bats proved themselves considerably stronger than the Premier Division reserves sides; and with their depth and club spirit could well be competitive against Premier Division senior teams if such an opportunity was to arise.

UTS   10.2   6.2   18.4   21.10 (136)

East Coast Eagles   1.2   1.4   4.5   5.7 (37)

Goals : UTS - T Chadwick 8, S Neal 4, A Thain 2, D Lavender 2, M Atkinson, D Mitchell, M Rigby, R Burrows. East Coast - R Frost, A Moeller, D Gatte, J Steer, P Vlatko.

Best : UTS - S Fitzgerald, T Chadwick, A Keith, A Kymantas, D Teasdale, S Neal. East Coast - J Mann, A Polkinghorne, T Physick, P Bleus, S Merkel, S O'Connor.

Umpires - M Peck, B Hissey, P Barron.


The early arrivers to Blacktown on Grand Final day were treated to the closest match, with North Shore winning their fourth straight under-18s title with a 12-point win over St George.

It was a low scoring contest, played hard between two desperate teams, and threatened to become heated with some argy-bargy as the half-time siren sounded. The lead see-sawed until late in the third term, when two late goals by the Bombers saw them lead by 8 points at the last change. And when Tim Weston cut loose in the last quarter with 3 goals, the Bombers were on their way to the premiership.

Richard Newell received the best-on-ground medal, while Max Carter and Eric Burke were also key contributors for North Shore. For St George, Blake Guthrie and Liam Davis were among their best.

North Shore   1.3   2.5   5.8   8.9 (57)

St George   1.0   3.3   4.6   6.9 (45)

Goals : North Shore - T Weston 3, T Bransgrove 2, J Wells, P Codling, T Aynsley. St George - A Sharp, N Ryan, L Perris, S Digby, B Guthrie, C Andrews.

Best : North Shore - R Newell, M Carter, E Burke, C Callander, P Codling, T Weston. St George - B Guthrie, L Davis, R Lombardo, B Addison, A Herne, N Ryan.

Umpires - J McBrien, A Manfried, N Elsworthy.




And so the 2009 season comes to an end. It's been a year of ups and downs for all clubs and players, a year of triumph for some and challenges for others. East Coast will bask in the joy of the victory they so richly deserve, but will have to step up even harder next year to defend their title as the hunter becomes the hunted. UNSW-ES will lick their wounds, but the desire to right the wrongs of the Grand Final defeat will spur them on to go one better in 2010. And for the remaining clubs, the task of planning an assault on the 2010 title has already begun.


As well as being remembered as the year East Coast finally broke their premiership drought, 2009 will also be remembered as a year for stadium development. The season opened with the opening of Bruce Purser Oval, with the Swans taking on the Western Bulldogs in a sold-out trial match before the ground hosted not only all of East Coast's home games but also some other transferred games from closed grounds and the Second Semi Finals. And over the course of the season we have seen Blacktown Olympic Park unfold from a vacant block a year ago to the stadium we see today - a venue that gives our league a facility of the quality we've never had before.



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2006 Grand Final
2007 Grand Final
2008 Rnd 1 - Syd Uni v
2008 Rnd 1 - Wests v
2008 Rnd 1 - Pen Hlls v
2008 Rnd 1 - UNSW-ES v
2008 Rnd 1 - St Grge v Nth
2008 Rnd 2 - Wests v
2008 Rnd 3 - W'gong v
2008 Rnd 4 - Camptwn v S
2008 Rnd 5 - Nth Shore v
2008 Rnd 6 - Wests v Syd
2008 Rnd 7 - C'town v Nth
2008 Rnd 8 - Syd Uni v St
2008 - Rnd 9 - W'gong v
Pen Hl
2008 - Rnd 10 - Pen Hills v
Nth Shre
2008 - Rnd 11 - Sydney Uni
v Nth Shre
2008 - Rnd 11 - Balmain v
2008 - Rnd 12 - Nth Shre v
East Cst
2009 - Rnd 1 - St George v
Syd Uni
2009 - Rnd 2 - Camp'twn v
2009 - Rnd 3 - Sydney Uni v
Penn Hills
2009 - Rnd 4 - Wests v Nth
2009 - Rnd 5 - Syd Uni v
Nth Shore
2009 - Rnd 6 - East Coast v
St George
2009 - Rnd 8 - Nth Shore v
Penn Hills
2009 - Rnd 9 - UNSW-ES v
East Coast
2009 - Rnd 10 - St George v
Nth Shore
2009 - Rnd 11 - Balmain v
2009 - Rnd 12 - UNSW-ES
v Nth Shore
2009 - Rnd 13 - Wests v
East Coast
2009 - Rnd 14 - Pen Hills v
2009 Represent -Sydney v
2009 - Rnd 15 - Nth Shore v
Syd Uni
2009 - Rnd 16 - Pen Hills v
Nth Shore
2009 - Rnd 17 - Nth Shore v
2009 - Rnd 18 - Wests v
Penn Hills
2009 - Qual Final - Wests v
2009 - Elim Final - Pen
Hills v Camp'town
2009 - 1st Semi -
UNSW-ES v Pen Hills
2009 - 2nd Semi - East
Coast v Wests
2009 - Prelim Final - Wests
2009 Grand Final Day
2010 - Rnd 1 - Wests v St
2010 - Rnd 2 - UNSW-ES v
North Shore
2010 - Rnd 3 - East Coast v
Sydney Uni
2010 - Rnd 4 - Sydney Uni v
North Shore
2010 - Rnd 5 - Camp'town v
2010 - Rnd 6 - Wests v
North Shore
2010 - Rnd 7 - Penn Hills v
2010 - Rnd 8 - Nth Shore v
2010 - Rnd 9 - Camp'town v
Sydney Uni
2010 - Rnd 9 - Pennant Hlls
v North Shore
2010 - Rnd 10 - St George v
2010 - Rnd 11 - Balmain v
2010 - Rnd 12 - St George v
North Shore
2010 - Rnd 13 - Nth Shore v
Sydney Uni
2010 - Rnd 14 - Wests v
East Coast
2010 - Rnd 15 - East Coast
v North Shore
2010 - Rnd 17 - Nth Shore v
Pennant Hills
2010 - Qual Final - Wests v
East Coast
2010 - Elim Final - North
Shore v Pennant Hills
2010 - 2nd Semi - Sydney
Uni v Wests
2010 - Prelim Final - Wests
v East Coast
2011 - Rnd 1 - East Coast v
2011 - Rnd 2 - Balmain v
2011 - Rnd 3 - Balmain v
2011 - Rnd 5 - Pennant
Hills v North Shore
2011 - Rnd 6 - North Shore
v Campbelltown
2011 - Rnd 8 - UTS v North
2011 - Rnd 9 - Wests v
Sydney Uni
2011 - Rnd 10 - Balmain v
St George
2011 - Rnd 11 - Illawarra v
North Shore
2011 - Rnd 12 - East Coast
v St George
2011 - Rnd 13 - North Shre
v St George
2011 - Rnd 14 - Balmain v
Pennant Hills
2011 - Rnd 15 - North
Shore v Pennant Hills
2011 - Rnd 15 - Sydney Uni
v East Coast
2011 - Rnd 17 - North
Shore v Wests
2011 - Rnd 18 - Balmain v
North Shore
2011 - Rnd 19 - North
Shore v Sydney Uni
2011 - Rnd 20 - UNSW-ES
v North Shore
2011 - Qualifying Final -
Balmain v Sydney Uni
2011 - First Semi - Sydney
Uni v North Shore
2011 - Prelim Final -
Balmain v Sydney Uni