Contributed by: Wesley Hull
To the winners – congratulations! The Dubai Dragons are the deserved AFL Middle East Premiers for the 2016/17 season. They have built up across the season in preparation for the biggest day of all. In the process they have re-written history (again!) and set the bar for success to a height that may or may not be reached again. Nothing should take away the sheer joy of the Dragon’s success this year, and will not.
But, for a moment, spare a thought for the gallant Multiplex Bulls. For the third consecutive season they have been beaten in the grand final by the Dubai Dragons. Three times they have felt the heartache of a premiership defeat – more if you count their debut season loss to the Dragons in the pre-season cup. They will be hurting – all the more for the fact that the final margin was just six points. So near, yet so far. Justifiably, there will be some Bulls wondering if they can ever win a flag. But they can, and they will. Later.
In an enthralling final, the script read that the Bulls kicked the first goal and came home hard in the final quarter. But the damage was done in between as the Dragons simply outplayed the Bulls for two and a half quarters – enough to secure victory, albeit narrowly.
After kicking the opening goal, the Bulls found the Dragons pushing back hard to kick the next two and set up a narrow five point lead. Quarter Time saw the Dragons 2 1 13 lead the Bulls 1 2 8.
The second quarter saw the Dragons up the ante. Grand final pressure was something the Dragons understood well and they grafted out three goals for the quarter to go to the main break with a handy ten point lead. Half Time arrived with the Dragons leading 4 3 27 to Bulls 2 5 17.
The “premiership quarter” saw the Dragons trying to hammer home their advantage and kicked a further three goals to one for the quarter. The Bulls were not giving up, but the Dragons could sniff victory and played pressure football. Three Quarter Time had the Dragons 7 5 47 to the Bulls 3 7 25 – a 22 point margin that would be difficult to pull back.
The last quarter arrived and so did the Bulls. They threw everything including the kitchen sink (and most of the cutlery) at the Dragons, setting up a huge comeback given the gravity of the game and the size of the deficit. Despite a huge last quarter, the Bulls fell agonisingly short of glory – going down in the end by a solitary kick.
Final Scores: Dubai Dragons 8 5 53 defeated the Multiplex Bulls 6 11 47.
Critics might argue that the Bulls lost the game through poor kicking (6.11), with seventeen scoring shots to thirteen. But the analysis can also be looked at through the period after the Bulls first goal to three quarter time. During that period the Dragons kicked six goals to two. In grand finals that is too much ground to concede.
Once again the Bulls will regroup and set new targets for next season. One day the dam wall will burst and the Bulls will revel in the occasion. But for now it is the time of the great Dragons. With this win they have recorded a coveted “three peat” of flags (2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17) and now boast five flags in the past six seasons. It is an enviable record, not just in the Middle East, but across the world.
Now all clubs will go into the off-season to rest and rebuild. The Dragons will celebrate, the Bulls commiserate. The Dingoes, Falcons and Kangaroos will sit down and plan. Watching quietly from the sidelines in Bahrain will be some interested people wondering if they have what it takes to bring down and slay the dragon.
For now, congratulations go to the Dubai Dragons on winning the flag and writing yet another amazing chapter in the club’s history, as well as the story of AFL Middle East.
World Footy News