Western Zone has won its first MAC SA Country Championship since 2011 after defeating Central by 30 points in the grand final at Renmark Oval on Sunday.
Despite trailing at quarter-time, the team from the Eyre Peninsula region responded in gritty fashion to boot nine goals to three across the remaining three terms en route to claiming Western’s fifth title since 1994.
Led by Kimba Districts’ Jesse Kemp, who was named best on ground in the final, Western enjoyed a strong second half as they put the clamps on their rivals by restricting them to just two goals.
Kemp – who spent 2015 playing in the SANFL Macca’s League with Central Districts – was fittingly awarded the Don McSweeny Medal as the best player across the two-day carnival.
The 27-year-old was also named at centre half-forward in the team of the championships, where he was joined by Western teammates Xavier Watson (centre), Jesse Stringer (forward pocket), Matthew Crettenden (forward pocket), Jordan Hind (interchange) and Reece Rayson (interchange).
Western’s Scott Feltus capped off the award winners for his zone after he received the Bill Murdoch Medal as the best coach of the championships.
Last year’s championship winning team – Murray South East – finished in third place after winning the second final of the afternoon while also providing the best under-21 player in Scott Merrett and the carnival’s leading goal kicker in Ben Simounds.
Southern Districts’ Josh Niederer had his consistent performances recognised by winning the Umpire of the Championships award.
TEAM OF THE CHAMPIONSHIPS
F: Matthew Crettenden (Western), Ben Simounds (Murray South East), Jesse Stringer (Western)
HF: Ben Davis (Southern Districts), Jesse Kemp (Western), Brett Ellis (Southern Districts)
C: Simon Berkefeld (Murray SE), Xavier Watson (Western), Mitchell Johnson (Southern Districts)
HB: Scott Merrett (Murray SE), Aseri Raikiwasa (Central), Joel Palmer (Northern)
B: Brae McConnell (Central), David Wright (Western), Aisea Rakiwasa (Central)
R: Todd Miles (Central), Billy Laurie (Murray SE), Steve Rusca (Central)
INT: Clint Gallio (Murray SE), Luke Teasdale (Eastern), Shane Ballantyne (Northern), Darren Shillabeer (Central), Samuel Alexopoulos (Southern Districts), Jordan Hind (Western), Reece Rayson (Western).