Ranger Field in Croydon was the stage for the Gridiron Victoria ‘Vic Bowl’ grand final last weekend. A very convenient home game for the Croydon Rangers women’s team as they competed in their first Vic Bowl after three years in the women’s league. Their opponents, the Melbourne University Chargers entering their second Championship game in as many years.
After defeating the Geelong Buccaneers in overtime in the semi-finals, the Rangers went 8-0, a far cry from their 2016 record of 3-3. The ladies from Melbourne Uni lost only to the Rangers in round two of the season. A victory over the rookie Western Crusaders in the semi’s set them up for another VicBowl appearance and a chance to claim the prize that eluded them in 2016.
Following the Under 19s Colts VicBowl taken out by the South Eastern Predators the women took to the field just before 3pm. First, the teams stood for the traditional National Anthem, then the captains Alicia, Nat and An of the Rangers and Sia, Izzy, Carmalita and Jenna of the Chargers came forward for the coin toss, performed by Channel 9 celebrity Peter Hitchener.
The Rangers offence started with the ball and began the first drive. For most of the first quarter, possession would see-saw between the teams until finally Ranger Running Back Tanya Russel ran 30 yards for the first Touchdown of the day.
It would be the only score for the half and the Rangers went into the break with a 6-0 lead. Both teams went away at half-time to readjust strategies and responsibilities. Every girl left the break knowing she had to give it everything she had to win.
In the 3rd quarter, after a long drive by the Chargers of the back of superstar running back Sia Kasiano, the Rangers found themselves backed into the red zone and unable to hold off Izzy Paholek (now playing quarterback) from running in the first Chargers score. The extra point successfully kicked after putting the Chargers in the lead 7-6.
During the 4th quarter, huge efforts from both defences would successfully get the ball back for each offensive unit just to have it turned over on downs a few plays later. It would be the Rangers who would put a drive together topped off by Tanya Russell who behind some great blocking would find the endzone giving the Rangers the lead.
An impassioned goal line stand by the Rangers defense ensured the Chargers were held at bay. Crunch tackles made by Clara Yip and Tina Lund made sure the Chargers were stopped on the two-yard line. The Rangers took over backed up against their endzone and started to drain the clock. The closing 5 minutes of the game belonged to Croydon as the offense slowly crawled their way up the field. With a first down secured and under a minute to play the Croydon Rangers were able to kneel out the game and began to celebrate their 12-7 VicBowl victory.
The crowd at Ranger Field was electrified as the Rangers Women took home their first Championship. A full undefeated season hasn’t occurred in the women’s competition since the Western Foxes achieved it in 2014.
Following the match, the Gridiron Victoria league awards were announced with the Champion Rangers collecting some extra silverware to go with their Vic Bowl medals. Quarterback Bliss Love won the Vic Bowl MVP honors. Tanya Russell took home the Victorian Gridiron Officials Association’s ‘Best and Fairest’ award along with the overall League season MVP. Head Coach Jamie Stafford also won the Coach of the Year title for the second time in three seasons.
2017 League Awards
Most Valuable Player
Tanya Russell #21 (Croydon Rangers)
Theresa Ealdama #28 (Western Crusaders)
Kylie West #21 (Geelong Buccaneers)
Offensive Line MVP
Nuni Talanoa #62 (MUGC Chargers)
Defensive Line MVP
Silei Poluleuligaga #55 (MUGC Chargers)
Rookie of the Year
Heather Marini #7 (Monash Warriors)
Coach of the Year
Jamie Stafford (Croydon Rangers)
2017 All Victorian Women’s Team
Congratulations to the following ladies selected to the 2017 All Victorian Women’s Team:
All Victorian Offense
Quarterback: Jacqui Doyle Raiders
Wide Receiver: Judith Fa’auli Warriors
Wide Receiver: Phuong Pham Chargers
Slot Receiver: Sam Kelly Raiders
Right Tackle: Carroll-Mary Hewitt Crusaders
Right Guard: Vanessa Brown Rangers
Centre: Sarah-Jane Mills Rangers
Left Guard: Nat Jones Rangers
Left Tackle: Nuni Talanoa Chargers
Running back: Tanya Russell Rangers
Running back: Tesia Sulu Fuamatu Chargers
Utility: Theresa Ealdama Crusaders
All Victorian Defense
Nose Tackle: Nicole Webster Raiders
Defensive Tackle: Beck Horner Rangers
Defensive End: Jordan Di Mizio Raiders
Defensive End: Kirsten Hayward Crusaders
Linebacker Edwina Liki Crusaders
Linebacker Shirley Esera Crusaders
Linebacker Kylie West Buccaneers
Cornerback: Melissa Kendrick Rangers
Cornerback: Rachael Webster Raiders
Strong Safety: Cat Bouwhuis Rangers
Free Safety: Rosie Trego Chargers
Utility: Clara Yip Rangers
All Victorian Special Teams
Returner: Rachael Cribb Crusaders
Punter: Heather Marini Warriors
Kicker: Sabine Wagner Chargers
Congratulations to you all on a fantastic 2017 season!
Report By : Cat Bouwhuis