The Cardiff Panthers cemented themselves as one of the best home-grown 9-a-side Aussie Rules teams in Britain on Saturday as they held off a strong challenge from the Bristol Dockers. Without talismanic ruckman Chris James who is currently at the International Cup with the GB Bulldogs, the Panthers fought hard to win their third Welsh Australian Rules Football League Premiership in as many years.
On a wet Cardiff morning, the Panthers knew they were in for a tough battle as the Dockers scored the first goal of the game within seconds of the first whistle. The Panthers though came back to score almost immediately after and goals at one end seemed to be constantly met with a goal at the other. The Dockers finished strongly however and went into quarter time leading by a goal.
It was the first time this season that the Panthers had finished a quarter behind and they were determined for it to be the last. Bristol’s experience of playing in the London Leagues however made them a tough team to break down. The Panthers though were prepared to fight them until the last and as the third quarter drew to a close, their fitness and strength in depth saw them start to pull away. In the final quarter, despite the best efforts of a Dockers team heavily loaded with Australian talent, the Panthers strolled home to a 23 point win.
Andrew Atack led brilliantly from the goalsquare, throwing the Dockers defence into chaos whilst David Gamble was strong in the ruck and defence and was named Best on Ground. It has been a truly remarkable season for a Panthers team who have lost only twice in the last two years and who fielded an Australian National in a game on only two occasions this season.
With the season now over, the WARFL turns its attention to two upcoming international tournaments and will be putting forward the Cymru Red Dragons for the inaugural Home Nations Cup in Worksop and EU Cup in Belfast.