Johnson, Higgins instrumental in WAFL win over SANFL

Monday, May 14, 2018 - 4:19 PM by Chris Pike
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BLAINE Johnson and Brock Higgins were both playing their first games for Western Australia and were strong contributors in the eventual 26-point victory against South Australia at Adelaide Oval.
 
Due to a combination of withdrawing through not being 100 per cent fit and missing out on final selection, Johnson and Higgins were the last two South Fremantle left to make the final WAFL team of 23 ahead of Nick Suban, Ashton Hams, Haiden Schloithe, Ben Saunders, Marlion Pickett and Ryan Cook.
 
It was a drought-breaking win for the WAFL in Adelaide as well Johnson and Higgins played significant roles in that final result.
 
Higgins started the game in the ruck and split his time between playing on the ball and then providing a strong target in attack as the game rolled on. He finished with nine possessions, four tackles and 17 hit outs which only tells part of the tale of his influence.
 
Johnson was then part of a dangerous WA forward-line and he ended up kicking two goals from 16 possessions, four inside-50 entries and three tackles.
 
WA went into the contest on Saturday at Adelaide Oval having won the past five State matches but winning in Adelaide against the Croweaters hadn’t happened since a State of Origin victory for the Sandgropers in 1994.
 
WA then started slowly on Saturday going goalless in the opening quarter. But that soon changed with a scorching eight-goal performance in the second term to head into half-time with a four-goal advantage.
 
The Black Swans then withstood a charge from the SANFL team in the third term to still lead by eight points at three quarter-time. 
 

The WAFL team was then unstoppable in the last quarter with five goals to two, including the last three majors of the game to claim the 15.12 (102) to 11.10 (76) victory. 
 
The win is a sixth straight State Game triumph for WA following wins over the VFL in 2013 in Northam, NEAFL in 2014 in Sydney, SANFL at Lathlain Park in 2015, Tasmania at Steel Blue Oval in 2016 and then a history-making triumph last year over Victoria in Melbourne.
 
It is a first victory in Adelaide for WA since 1994 and South Australia's first loss on home soil in a State match since 2002.
 
The SANFL have won eight of their past 11 State Games still, but each of those three defeats have come at the hands of the WAFL.
 
The victory also extends Western Australia's lead over history in interstate battles against South Australia to 48-46 in the 94 meetings.
 
Claremont midfielder Jye Bolton received the Simpson Medal for a superb performance on the ball for the KIA WAFL State Team. 
 
He finished with 34 possessions, six marks and a goal to now add his second Simpson Medal to his collection having also won one for the State game against Tasmania two years ago. He is also a 2016 Sandover Medallist and Claremont fairest and best winner.
 
Bolton received plenty of help in the WA midfield with West Perth's Shane Nelson amassing 30 possessions and laying 11 tackles.
 
East Perth's Sharrod Wellingham also finished with 27 disposals, Claremont's Kane Mitchell 25, Subiaco and WAFL captain Kyal Horsley 21, West Perth's Aaron Black 20, Swan Districts' Rhys Palmer 20, East Fremantle's Jonathon Marsh 20, Subiaco's Leigh Kitchin 19 and his teammate Chris Phelan 17.
 

Corey Gault was tremendous as a key forward with the reigning Swan Districts fairest and best winner kicking three goals to go with 20 possessions and four marks.
 
West Perth veteran Andrew Strijk also kicked three goals in his seventh appearance for WA while Johnson and Subiaco's Rhys Waters kicked two goals apiece.
 
Subiaco's Lachlan Delahunty (16 possessions, nine hit outs, five tackles) and Higgins (nine disposals, four tackles, 17 hit outs) were strong performers too for the WAFL team in the ruck.
 
The WA back-line led by Subiaco's Aaron Heal, Swan Districts' Tony Notte, Subiaco's Angus Litherland and West Perth's Luke Meadows were rock solid as well restricting South Australia to just 11 goals from 54 inside-50 entries.
 
SANFL captain Zane Kirkwood received the Fos Williams Medal after finishing with 36 possessions, eight tackles, seven inside-50 entries, six marks and a goal.
 
Mitch Grigg also gathered 26 disposals for South Australia, Sam Colquhoun 25, Matthew Panos 25, Kaine Stevens 24, Jarred Allmond 24 and Travis Schiller 23.
 
Josh Scott kicked two goals and ruckman Darcy Fort ended up with 14 disposals and 31 hit outs.
 
It took both teams time to settle into the contest in the first quarter at Adelaide Oval and after the KIA WAFL State Team missed a handful of gettable attempts on goal early, it was the SANFL who kicked the first goal at the 18-minute mark through Aidan Riley.
 
The home team then went on to add three more goals before quarter-time through Zane Kirkwood, Marlon Motlop and Josh Hone to take a 22-point advantage into the first break having held WA goalless.
 
That took less than a minute to change in the second quarter when Blaine Johnson got the WAFL on the board after just 45 seconds.
 
Less than five minutes later and Rhys Waters added a second for the Black Swans and a minute on from that, Jye Bolton kicked another and suddenly the margin was just five points.
 
When Andrew Strijk added another the scores were level with WA having piled on four goals in less than nine points of the second quarter.
 

The WAFL team went on with it too with goals to Kyal Horsley, Corey Gault, Johnson again and then Sharrod Wellingham from long range. Suddenly the Sandgropers were in control at half-time leading by 24 points after a stunning eight-goal to nil quarter.
 
But once again the majority of the scoring would be done to the end South Australia was kicking in the third quarter. The Croweaters kicked four goals in the first 11 minutes through Kaine Stevens, Josh Scott, Justin Hoskin and Matt Panos.
 
That had the SANFL back within a point but the WAFL was able to steady with the first goal of the game to that end when Gault kicked his second of the game. That steadied the visitors to a lead of seven points before Sam Colquhoun got another one back for South Australia.
 
But WA got an important goal on the siren when spearhead Brad Stevenson kicked powerfully to put them up by eight points at the last change.
 
WA did get early last quarter goals from Waters and Rhys Palmer with South Australia responding through Scott and Jack Hayes, but then it was the visitors who took control.
 
The WAFL kicked the last three goals of the game with two of those courtesy of Strijk and Gault kicking his third as well to set up the statement-making 26-point triumph at Adelaide Oval.
 
WESTERN AUSTRALIA 0.4 8.6 10.9 15.12 (102)
SOUTH AUSTRALIA 4.2 4.6 9.7 11.10 (76)
 
WAFL – Goals: Strijk, Gault 3; Waters, Johnson 2; Palmer, Horsley, Bolton, Stevenson, Wellingham.
Best: Bolton, Nelson, Wellingham, Gault, Strijk, Mitchell, Higgins, Horsley.
SANFL – Goals: Scott 2; Colquhoun, Hone, Hoskin, Motlop, Kirkwood, Stevens, Riley, Hayes, Panos.
Best: Kirkwood, Panos, Grigg, Colquhoun, Stevens, Schiller.
 
SIMPSON MEDAL (WA) – Jye Bolton
FOS WILLIAMS MEDAL (SA) – Zane Kirkwood