LVFNL Seniors Football | Grand Final PREVIEW

Panthers face Mean Machine in premiership decider

MARONG will mark its first senior premiership since 1989 or Bridgewater will celebrate its 23rd when the clubs meet in the Bendigo Bank Loddon Valley Football Netball League’s senior footy grand final on Saturday.

The showdown of the Panthers and Mean Machine will be at Marist College Bendigo oval in Maiden Gully.

Marong’s fans have endured a long wait, not just for a premiership, but a senior grand final appearance.

The Linton Jacobs-coached Panthers have worked incredibly hard to be in a position where they start as grand final favourite.

Marong won the home-and-away series clashes with Bridgewater by margins of 77 and 81 points.

The Mean Machine’s form has lifted dramatically since then as the team rides on the wave of confidence generated from finals wins against Bears Lagoon Serpentine, elimination; Mitiamo, first semi; and Pyramid Hill, preliminary.


An incredible run by Bridgewater throughout the last decade included seven senior premierships from 2010 to ’16.

Some of the players from those grand final wins are still starring for this year’s Mean Machine which is coached by Rick Ladson, a premiership winner with Hawthorn in 2008.

Winner of the Frank Harding Medal as league fairest and best and the competition’s leading goalkicker in 2015, Andy Collins has had another superb season for Bridgewater.

Collins coached the Mean Machine to grand final glory in 2014 and ’15 and played on for another premiership with the club the next year.

In 2022, Collins and Josh Martyn have led Bridgewater’s attack on 52 and 64 goals.

The play of the Mean Machine’s defence will have a major bearing on the result.

A formidable Marong forward line is led by Brandyn Grenfell who marked a league record of 143 goals in the home and away series, and added two more in the second semi-final win against Pyramid Hill.

Grenfell’s play earned 17 votes to be joint runner-up with Marong team-mate Corey Gregg to Pyramid Hill on-baller Billy Micevski in the Harding Medal.

The Panthers also have Kain Robins, a Michelsen medallist and premiership winner in his time with Eaglehawk, as well as Cory Jacobs, Nathan Devanny and Ryley Taylor to test Bridgewater’s defence.

Two of the most daunting roles in the Bridgewater team are likely to go to Lachlan Allison and James Naughton who were named at full-back and centre half-back where their opponents will be Grenfell and Robins.

The Mean Machine will also look for strong defensive games from Jake Rusbridge, Luke Harrison, Zane Hoiles and Jack Symons.

On-ball duels are vital, no matter the size of the ground or significance of the match.


Marong is led by Justin Hynes in the ruck, Corey Gregg and Jimmy Gadsden.

The Harding medallist 10 seasons ago, Corey Gregg has had a superb season in a Panthers line-up which includes his brother, Ben.

Bridgewater has Cameron Ross in the ruck and Harry Donegan, a first-year player at the club after a successful run with Golden Square which included a premiership, as ruck-rover.

Harry McKinley was named as rover.

The Mean Machine will be without in-form on-baller Callum Prest who injured his knee in the first semi-final win against Mitiamo.

In midfield, Bridgewater has Michael Brooks, Jacob Ellings and Harry Symons to take on Lachlan Lee, Kyle Manley and athletic tall Richard Tibbett.

The versatility and running power of Emile Pavlich is a huge plus for Bridgewater.

The Mean Machine will also work to create enough chances for forwards such as Tim Wood, Tyler Estrada, Lloyd Needs as they take on Will Gadsden, Trent Fisher and David Johnstone.

Key defensive posts for Marong are likely to be taken by Nathan Walsh and Corbin Fleming against the in-form Andy Collins and Josh Martyn.


Schedule for Saturday’s grand finals at Marist College Bendigo oval in Maiden Gully:

Under-18s at 10.30am: Marong v Bridgewater.

Reserves at 12.30pm: Marong v Pyramid Hill.

Seniors at 2.30pm: Marong v Bridgewater.


Written by Nathan Dole.