To be taken seriously as a Barossa, Light & Gawler Football Association premiership threat, South Gawler needed to make a statement against Barossa District last Saturday.
In a home game, the Lions roared loudly with a comprehensive 39-point victory.
There is no doubt that South have earned respect with their form this season, but needed a big scalp to make a statement, which it now has.
Yes, the Bulldogs are hurting and playing short-handed, but there are still plenty of experienced personnel and quality players in the Barossa side, which is still in the top four, in spite of the 2012 injury woes.
Although kicking against the breeze early South took control in the first quarter, through the dominance in ruck of Mark Paget, with the likes of on-ballers Matt Foldesdy, Aaron Bayliss and Daniel Goulding pushing the ball forward - to lead 4-3 to 2-1 at the first break.
With the first three goals of the second term it looked like the Lions by how much, but Barossa steadied for the next three majors to go into half time trailing by 17 points.
Returning from injury Dan Pfeiffer struggled in ruck against Paget, which saw Bulldog mentor Roger James throw 6’ 4” James Angus into the mix. It had an effect, with the Stelzer twins - Matt and Paul - and Michael Taylor coming into the game.
Riding the momentum built up, Barossa kept working hard early in the third term to close within a kick, before the Lions booted the final two majors of the period for a 15-point advantage at lemons.
South kicked the first couple of goals in the final term before the Bulldogs managed one at the 18-minute mark to have a ‘silly’ chance to steal the points, but a couple of strong marks and majors by Anton Gerardis sealed the result.
Spearhead Gerardis was on fire with four majors in the last quarter, and eight for the game, in his best performance of the season.
“We controlled play and were on top for the majority of the game, but they have some quality players, and always seemed to be close,” Lions coach Scott Lee said.
“Our defence was very good, with Heath Lawry doing a great job on (Heath) Commane, which was crucial, and Kristian Economou matched (Roger) James with his strength and used his height and pace to run off of him. And Matt Foldesdy did a great job in the centre on (Michael) Taylor.”
South was also missing a pair of important players, with Justin Trewren resting a sore knee and Brady Scott unavailable because of work, but had a major in with North Adelaide’s Nick White, which helped settle the Lions’ defence.
Best for South was Jackson Dare, who relished his role on the wing, and had a good tussle with veteran Bulldog Darren Sharp - after he was moved to the unaccustomed position.
The Stelzers and Taylor again were important cogs in the Barossa mid-field ‘machine’, but they need more help.
Most importantly, the Bulldogs desperately need Ross Christie back in ruck, and extra on-baller Adam Spencer, both who have missed the majority of the season through injury.
“South was too good,” James said. “We are battling at the moment. You need good team structure, South played it, we didn’t.
“Going forward we need to sort ourselves out. At the moment we are stale, and too many blokes are passengers. Too many think others will do it. There are not enough people on the train.”
This Saturday all teams have the weekend off for the zone championship, while the following week South host Willaston, and Barossa is away to Angaston.