By TOM WYMAN
Central District defeated Sturt by 20 points at Adelaide Oval to claim the club’s first Torrens University SANFL Under-16 premiership.
Bulldogs captain Dyson Sharp capped off a sensational season by being named best-on-ground after he gathered 27 disposals, six marks, five tackles and six clearances as his club won its first flag in that age group since the U17s saluted in 2004.
In perfect sunny conditions, both sides struggled for space in a highly-contested start, before Bulldog Jaden Pasin kicked the first goal of the day at the 11-minute mark.
Central forward Justin Miller found himself in the right place at the right time to mark a quick kick from stoppage 20 metres from goal, and he duly converted.
The Bulldogs’ pressure was high and they continually used the ball well, with prime movers Sharp and Josh Reichelt finding plenty of possessions.
Central tall forward Aidan Schubert got on the end of a sublime Matthew Leray inside-50, and he made no mistake, giving the Bulldogs a 19-point lead at quarter time.
Sturt’s first goal of the game came courtesy of a Gill Wakelin set-shot at the 11-minute mark of the second term, then Ryan Davies dribbled through another to further reduce the margin.
The Double Blues started to turn the tide at stoppages, ruckman Blake Thredgold asserting himself on the contest and midfielders Harley Barker and Louis Kellaway getting their hands on the ball.
With the game opening up, Jermaine Miller snapped the quick reply for Central, but Sturt’s Noah Mennillo responded just as swiftly and the Bulldogs led by just six points at half-time.
Bulldog Schubert and the Double Blues’ Wakelin both kicked their second goals early in the third term as the pressure ramped up from both sides.
A textbook crumb and snap from Angus Mills put Sturt ahead for the first time, but it was short-lived as goals to Kaleb White and Matthew Leray restored the Central advantage to eight points at three quarter-time.
The Central District backline continued to stand up by rebounding with precision and the likes of Leray and Hayden Henke worked tirelessly to find space on the wings.
Schubert brought up his third to give the Bulldogs some more breathing space, and Dougie Cochrane’s set-shot goal all-but sealed the deal.
Reichelt used the ball efficiently from half-back and finished with a game-high 29 disposals, as the likes of Jack Gordon (22 disposals and nine marks), Cameron Nairn (21 disposals and 10 marks) and Henke (20 disposals and nine marks) stood tall throughout.
Thredgold toiled valiantly for the Double Blues, winning 32 hit-outs and taking three contested marks and Jett Dahlitz worked hard for his 23 disposals and seven marks.