By OSCAR PERRI
Thousands turned out at Traeger Park on Sunday to cheer on their team in the Central Australian Football League community competition grand final.
Convoys of cars came in from the surrounding communities to ferry in supporters, with many sporting a new paint job in the colours of their team.
The day was kicked off with the Under 18s final between Plenty Highway and Ltentye Apurte. Plenty looked as though they were going to steamroll their opponents at half time, but a second half ‘Ltentyies’ comeback, led by a three goal haul from Kefon Alice saw it go down to the wire, but Plenty Highway were able to hold on and win by three points.
Next up was the men’s division 2 match, between the Titjikala Hawks and the Mount Allen Eagles.
Again the game saw a second half comeback fall just short, the Eagles started strong and held the Hawks to three goals and lead by 32 points.
After the break the Hawks found a way to hit the scoreboard and kicking seven goals, but it wasn’t enough to recover from Mt Allen’s fast start, eventually going down by 16 points. Daniel Stafford was the difference, booting nine goals, and earning best on ground.
The crowd had continued to grow as the day wore on, and by this point the passionate crowd rivalled a packed MCG for energy, though it was largely good natured, with many enjoying the sun and cheering on family and friends on the ground, and lots of kids alongside them, off mucking about and kicking the footy, or pleading with parents for five bucks for a bucket of chips.
Then it was time for the big game, the division 1 grand final between the Papunya Eagles and the Western Aranda Bulldogs, who were after redemption following a grand final loss last season.
The game got off to a hot start, with each team getting a goal in quick succession, revving up the crowd, but it slowed down shortly afterwards, and while Papunya looked to have slightly more control of the game, they weren’t able to get the ball forward and make it hurt.
In the second term, the Eagles were quickly able to take the lead, and hardly looked back, finishing the low scoring quarter eight points ahead.
Papunya kicked with the wind in the third quarter, and used it to full advantage, taking over the game and piling on four goals, while keeping the Bulldogs scoreless, stretching the lead out to 31 points.
Western Aranda gave a sniff of a comeback early in the last quarter, giving their big crowd hope of a tight finish, but as the game slipped away frustration got the better of some of the Bulldogs, who gave away unnecessary free kicks and killed their chance.
The crowd erupted onto the ground as the siren blew, announcing Papunya as 25 point victors, with the community sprinting to the middle to celebrate with their premiership heroes.
Unfortunately a disgruntled Bulldogs supporter went into the middle of the crowd looking to take out some frustration, but the Papunya team and supporters were much more interested in celebrating the win than retaliating, and police quickly intervened.
The crowd chanted as the players received their medals, and were so loud that speeches were completely drowned out, but no one seemed to mind, and least not the players who were making their fair share as well.