Barossa District got back to season-best football to record a 51-point preliminary final win against Freeling in Barossa, Light and Gawler A grade.
Like last year, the Bulldogs were forced to take the long route, but booked a spot in the big dance after producing a sensational display at Eldred Riggs Reserve.
“I told the boys before the game we needed to respond or that was it, it’d be season over,” Barossa playing coach Todd Miles said.
It was Freeling’s first finals appearance since 2007, but while the side looked determined to progress it was caught off caught by the powerhouse of Barossa.
The Bulldogs were hard at the football and thanks to some tidy deliveries into the forward line Alan Obst was on the board early, eventually kicking three majors for the day.
Barossa was out to a 21-point lead by quarter-time, as the reigning premiers made it difficult for Freeling to gain any uncontested possession.
However, it was a horror second quarter from the Redlegs, scoring just three points compared to three majors from the Dogs to extend the lead to six goals by the main break.
It didn’t get much better for Freeling in the third term, as Barossa’s ever-reliable back six – fronted by a sensational tagging effort from Brae McConnell on superboot Joel Vaneveld (one goal) – held the struggling side to 1.2 to stretch out to a 53-point margin at three-quarter time.
Jaydn Goodfellow was pleased to see Todd Miles take back the reigns in the ruck, continuing his strong effort up forward, a solid support for Darren Shillabeer (two goals each), while youngster Owen Watson (three majors) was also a key target.
The Bulldogs were much more accurate than previous weeks and their final quarter was almost a formality, cruising to victory, but Miles said he was pleased with his side’s performance.
“We got back to playing our best footy, liked we’d played in patches during the season,” he said.
“It was closer than the scoreboard showed, but to get back to our best footy was really pleasing given the last couple of weeks.”
Up and comer Shaun Hunt played a stellar role on the wing for Barossa, while Michael Baraglia was also strong.
The Dogs defensive unit were without leader Alex Stone, but Nathan Casboult, Damien Nangle and Launce Kent stepped up in his absence.
Barossa has a difficult task ahead, looking to crush Kapunda’s dream of breaking a 12-year premiership drought, but Miles said he believes his side is good enough to go back-to-back.