Contributed by: Aaron Richard
In a season with more people playing footy in Wales than ever before, the third Welsh Australian Rules Football League (WARFL) Grand Final is almost upon us.
With their partner clubs languishing at the bottom of the ladder in the SANFL, the consistent South Cardiff Panthers and formidable Swansea Magpies have won the right for the second year running to play for the biggest prize in Welsh Australian Rules football. By the end of this week one of these proud clubs will be crowned the best team in Wales and get their hands on the coveted WARFL Premiership Cup.
Last year, the Panthers went through their whole season undefeated to be the first club in WARFL history to do so.
On the west side of Wales, their arch rival Swansea Magpies also had a stellar 2009 after a disastrous 2008 season finishing bottom of the league table. In spite of this, the Magpies surprised everyone and edged out inaugural Welsh Premiers Cardiff Double Blues to reach the 2009 Grand Final.
That year South Cardiff was red hot favourites to win their first Premiership cup after the Double Blues thrashed the Panthers in 2008 by a record 71 points.
However in last season's Grand Final the lads from Swansea showed the rest of the footy world they were on the rise and a force to be reckoned with. Granted, the Panthers lead at every change, but Swansea won the last quarter with a mighty performance lead by best on ground Matthew Hopkins and vice Captain Rhys Jones.
However, the Magpies were left heart broken, only 3 points short at the final siren from the upset of the season and a lost chance to win their first Premiership.
Fast forward to 2010 and the Panthers marched on their winning ways coming second in the British “Clwb” Challenge to Europe’s powerhouse West London Wildcats. Then winning the WARFL preseason competition Cymru Clwb Cup and only losing one match for the season in round 8, fittingly against the Swansea Magpies by 15 points. After the home and away season the Panthers finished top of the league for the second year running.
For the Swansea Magpies, 2010 was their best season yet.
Early in the year Swansea missed out on a golden opportunity to start the season with a win going into the final quarter of round 1 with a handy 20 point lead. However, disappointingly for the Magpies they drew against the Double Blues on a miserable grey and rainy day in Cardiff (which was the first draw ever in WARFL history).
Yet the rest of the season went extremely well for the Magpies. They easily accounted for the other WARFL clubs Gwent Tigers and league newcomers Vale Warriors, with Swansea’s only loss for the season in round 2 against South Cardiff by 16 points.
Now turning to this weekend's match, the feathers will certainly fly and claws will be sharpened once again as the two best clubs in Wales fight it out for the third WARFL Premiership Cup. The Panthers may be slight favourites, but don’t be surprised at all if the Magpies seek revenge for last year and hold the cup aloft. At around 4pm this Saturday we’ll know for sure, but whoever wins, it will no doubt be another classic with two form teams primed and ready for action.
So make sure to come on down and spread the word, as it’ll be a grand day for footy in the town of Barry, birthplace of Australian PM Julia Gilliard.
This years’ Grand Final curtain raiser is a friendly with the Barry-based Vale Warriors playing WARFL 2011 expansion team Bridgend Eagles from 11:30am.
The main event will kick off 1pm at Barry RFC, Merthyr Dyfan Road, CF62 9TH with the bar and clubrooms open from 12pm with plenty of cold beer and sizzling snags and burgers from the BBQ.
WARFL founder Bryce Stone pictured with South Australian premier (of the political kind) and South Adelaide fan, Mike Rann.
World Footy News