Deer Park lands historic premiership four-peat

Deer Park celebrate their fourth straight premiership. Picture Shawn Smits.

Deer Park is on the most dominant winning streak of any side in WRFL division 1 history.

The Lions are kings of the jungle for a record-breaking fourth consecutive year after securing that elusive four-peat with a 114-point mauling of Hoppers Crossing in the grand final at Whitten Oval on Sunday.

In a break from tradition, Lions’ player-coach Marc Bullen and captain Chris Stewart received the premiership cup high on the balcony at the home of Western Bulldogs, not on a premiership dais at ground level.

It was a fitting stage for the ceremony because the Lions were head and shoulders above any side in this year’s competition – and, arguably, the best ever.

“Any standstill moments like that, you know you want to cherish it for the rest of your life,” Bullen said.

Deer Park could smell blood from time-on in the first quarter.

The competitive opening 12 minutes, with both sides kicking three goals apiece, was quickly forgotten as the Lions piled on seven of the next eight goals to take a 39-point lead into quarter-time.

 Jase Perkins takes a strong mark. Picture Shawn Smits.
Jase Perkins takes a strong mark. Picture Shawn Smits.

The engravers might as well have gotten to work at that point because there was no coming back for Hoppers Crossing, who could only manage to stem the blood loss until half-time.

When the Warriors emerged from the main break, they were on the receiving end of a Deer Park side at its most lethal.

It was a procession of goals for the Lions in the second half, 12 goals to one to ensure they would break their own record for highest score kicked in a top-flight grand final.

The 25.21 (171) result eclipsed their own 2014 grand final score of 22.26 (158).

As much as the talk inevitably surrounds Deer Park’s attacking force, Bullen has consistently preached the virtues of defence to his players.

The Lions weren’t as miserly as in last season’s decider when they held Werribee Districts to just two goals.

They held onto their weekly target of keeping opponents to fewer than 10 goals, with Hoppers Crossing registering 8.9 (57).

“I’ve been big on team first, big on defensive mindset, and the result will take care of itself, if we do the team first things,” Bullen said.

“We try and restrict opposition sides to 10 goals or less during a game. Our cornerstone is our half-back line and our defence.

“You get good ball-users behind the ball, and you can set up whatever you want from there.”

Rodney Van Riet collected the Herb Pascarl Medal for best-on-ground. Van Riet was as important to the structure of the team as he was influential, with his possession-winning skills in the centre of the ground.

The heartbreaking loss of Jack Purton-Smith, who pulled out of the grand final minutes before the first bounce with a hamstring injury meant Van Riet had to step up, and he did so with aplomb.

“I don’t like to call myself a good judge, but I am, if you read the Record. I said he’s probably the only one that can take that medal off Kwame [McHarg],” Bullen said.

“He probably had about 35 to 40 touches in the middle of the ground. He went in and absolutely killed them.”

Marc Bullen and Brendan Fevola celebrate. Picture Shawn Smits.
Marc Bullen and Brendan Fevola celebrate. Picture Shawn Smits.

McHarg was pipped for the Pascarl Medal, and only has himself to blame. The electric forward was unstoppable with five goals, but could easily have doubled that if not for his wayward shooting.

Brendan Fevola kicked four, Jase Perkins came with a late run to match that tally, and Spiros Amarantidis’ forward defensive pressure was rewarded with three goals.

It would have been an easy day to be a Deer Park forward, with the silver service coming via a midfield brigade led by Van Riet, Luke Summers, Sohrob Ismail, Shannon Byrnes and Rhett King.

Chains of play were so often set up by half-backs Max Bruin and Kane McKenzie.

Bullen praised his players, not only for their performance on the big stage, but for the hours of hard work they put in aside from the three hours every weekend.

“We’ve been working each other that bloody hard to get where we want,” he said.

“We push our players to the limits, and they’re rewarded in due course.”

For more pictures from Saturday’s game CLICK HERE

Deer Park coach Marc Bullen and captain Chris Stewart. Picture Shawn Smits.
Deer Park coach Marc Bullen and captain Chris Stewart.
Picture Shawn Smits.