SWFL 2023: Young Carey Park Panthers steal show as Bunbury humbled in opening round

Headshot of Justin Fris
Justin FrisBunbury Herald
Both sides get to know each other a little better during the second quarter.
Camera IconBoth sides get to know each other a little better during the second quarter. Credit: Justin Fris/South Western Times

After months of sparse rainfall in Bunbury, heavy showers pummelled Kelly Park less than two minutes before the Carey Park-Bunbury league clash.

This led to oppressive humidity, which made life even more taxing for all players, given the nature of any round one contest.

Fortunately for the Panthers, their added youth proved telling in the closing stages as they claimed a famous 11.6 (72) to 10.9 (69) win in Frank Italiano’s first game in charge of the league side.

Bunbury were dealt a significant blow prior to the game, with club legend Jesse Gribble unavailable due to injury, although coach Jamie Nani did benefit from the inclusion of former AFL duo Joel Houghton (four goals) and Matt Martin (three).

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The visitors bolted out to an early two-goal lead, with Houghton and Martin capitalising on decent service provided from the Bunbury midfielders.

Narrowly trailing at quarter time, the Panthers started strongly upon the resumption of play, with Bryce Fiorentino injected into the midfield.

This, coupled with several inspirational passages of play from Jack Di Lallo — who finished with three goals — resulted in a significant momentum shift.

The tropical conditions did little for quelling tempers, with both sides feeling each other out periodically.

In a nip and tuck second half, both sides wrestled for supremacy, exchanging the lead on multiple occasions.

Ultimately, the Panthers got their noses in front late courtesy of a Kelvin Lawrence major and managed to stay there.

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