GRAND final experience played a big part in North Bendigo defeating Colbinabbin for the Bendigo Bank Heathcote District Football Netball League’s senior footy premiership cup on Saturday.
For many in the Bulldogs line-up there was the desperation to avoid a hat-trick of grand final defeats following the agony of losses to Leitchville Gunbower the previous two years.
It was a tense and hard-fought start to Saturday’s showdown between the Bulldogs and Grasshoppers on Huntly’s turf at Specialist Breeders Australia Oval in Strauch Reserve.
Jordan Ford and captain Jarrod Findlay were on target for North Bendigo in the opening term as Daniel Connors and Ben Southam goaled for Colbo.
At quarter-time, the Bulldogs led 15-14.
When these teams met in the second semi-final a fortnight earlier it was Colbo which blitzed in the second quarter on the way to a stunning 26-point victory at Pigeon Park in Heathcote’s Barrack Reserve.
The Matt Dillon-coached North Bendigo showed it had learnt plenty from that match as relentless pressure forced mistakes by Colbo from which the team in red, white and blue capitalised.
By the eight-minute mark of the second term the Bulldogs led 34-14.
The classy Jarrod Findlay was caught high and goaled in the second minute of the term.
An attacking move which began after Shane Harris outmarked Colbo’s gun full-forward Daniel Connors deep in defence was capped by Storm Giri swooping on the loose ball from a marking contest to boot the Bulldogs fourth goal.
Ford power was on show as Lachlan Ford charged off half-back and was on the end of long handpass from key forward Brady Herdman to goal from distance.
The Julian Bull-coached Colbinabbin was pressure into mistakes, especially through midfield, and also battled to beat a tight-knit North Bendigo defence.
Herdman marked a Zac Alford pass and goaled for a 41-15 lead in the 15th minute.
Chasing a ninth senior premiership, Herdman goaled from a set-shot in the pocket as North Bendigo led 7.6 (48) to 2.3 (15) at half-time.
Colbinabbin’s workrate and ability to win more stoppages and clearances lifted dramatically in the third quarter.
The Grasshoppers did plenty of attacking, but added just three points in nine minutes.
More importantly though, Colbo kept the Bulldogs scoreless.
The deadlock was broken in the 10th minute of the quarter when talented teenager Hugh Hamilton goaled with a right-foot snap.
When North Bendigo forced a spillage near the goalsquare at the Elmore end goal it was Jordan Ford who goaled for a 31-point buffer.
A downfield free-kick after an incident behind play led to Zac Alford taking a kick at goal from which he made no mistake.
Hugh Hamilton gave Colbo’s fans a glimmer of hope when he goaled after being held in a marking contest to be within 31 points at the 22-minute mark.
From there it was the Bulldogs’ ability to control tempo which meant there was no addition to the score.
North Bendigo led 61-31 at three quarter-time.
Back in action after missing the previous two finals because of a foot injury sustained in the round 18 win against Colbo, Darcy Richards booted the only goal of the final term after he took a contested mark in the goalsquare in the third minute.
The Grasshoppers never stopped trying, but it was North Bendigo, beaten just twice this season, which would raise the HDFNL premiership cup for a third time.
There were many outstanding performers for North Bendigo.
The AFL Country Victoria medal was presented to the versatile Jordan Ford who played a key role across half-forward for most of the game, but also went to defence at times.
At full-back, Shane Harris was superb for the Bulldogs.
The duel between Harris and Connors who played at AFL level with Richmond was always going to be pivotal to the chances of both teams.
Not only did Harris limit Connors to a goal, but he was often the springboard from the last line of defence.
Ruckman Jeremy Lambden also played a great game, as did Jarrod Findlay, Zac Alford and Aarryn Craig.
Best for Colbinabbin were Todd Bryant, Lachlan Ezard, Chris Guinane, Matt McEvoy, Hadleigh Sirett and Damian Carmody.
The Bulldogs have played in seven of the past eight senior grand finals, and Saturday’s match was six in a row.
North Bendigo was runner-up in 2012 and ’14, premiers in 2015 and ’16, and runner-up in 2017 and ’18.
Seven players in the Bulldogs’ latest grand final triumph are now in the “Triple Premiership Club”.
Ryan Alford, Aarryn Craig, Tyson Findlay, Jordan Ford, Brady Herdman, Tom Metherell and Darcy Richards all played in the Bulldogs’ premiership wins of 2015, ’16 and ’19.
North Bendigo’s premiership-winning team coached by Matt Dillon:
Jarrod Findlay (captain), Ryan Alford, Zac Alford, Will Brohm, Aarryn Craig, Tim Deveraux, Jack Donat, Tyson Findlay, Jordan Ford, Lachy Ford, Storm Giri, Ryan Gow, Shane Harris, Joel Helman, Brady Herdman, Jake Hyland, Ben Knight, Jeremy Lambden, Tom Metherell, Darcy Richards, Callum Tardrew, Brodie Thomson.
It was a memorable day for White Hills as it won the reserves and under-17s grand finals.
The Demons charged to a 25-point lead by quarter-time of the reserves match against Leitchville Gunbower.
Led by a six-goal haul from Will Kain in a best on ground performance and three majors by Michael Dee, White Hills won 16.10 (106) to 9.8 (62).
The Leitchville Gunbower attack was led by Zac Dye, three goals, and Hayden Harmer, two.
The Rhys Frawley-coached Demons had many contributors.
Best for White Hills included Daniel Trull, Dean Bowles, Daniel Fulton, Michael Dee and Jarrod Brittain.
Leitchville Gunbower’s best were Hugh McGillivray, Greg Carne, Matt Spittal, Josh Hawken, Nick McKenner and Tom McGillivray.
The Bombers were coached by Andrew Colvin.
Stung by a 32-point loss to Mount Pleasant in the second semi, White Hills capped a superb fightback to win the grand final clash with the Blues by 12 points.
The Demons’ accuracy played a big part in the victory as they scored 8.7 to 5.13.
White Hills led 3.7 to 2.6 at half-time and then kicked away for a 17-point lead at a quarter to go.
Both line-ups added two goals apiece in the last term as the Demons triumphed 8.7 (55) to 5.13 (43).
Mitch McConnell kicked a team-high four goals as White Hills team-mates Nic McKinley, three, and Fletcher were also on target.
The Blues’ attack was led by the Whites, Fletcher and Bailey as they added four and one goal respectively.
Best for the Lachlan Sawyer-coached White Hills were Nic McKinley, Patrick Crawford, Liam Nihill, Jake Meersbergen, David Carter and Nic Wallace.
Ned Burke, Andrew Clover, Felix Bickley, Jack Teasdale, Bailey White and Liam Ledwidge played well for the Jason Carbone-coached Mount Pleasant.
Heathcote DFNL football grand finals scoreboard at Huntly:
North Bendigo 2.3 7.6 9.7 10.10 (70)
Colbinabbin 2.2 2.3 4.7 4.10 (34)
GOALS – North Bendigo: J. Findlay, J. Ford, B. Herdman 2, Z. Alford, L. Ford, S. Giri, D. Richards. Colbinabbin: H. Hamilton 2, D. Connors, B. Southam.
BEST – North Bendigo: J. Ford, S. Harris, J. Lambden, J. Findlay, Z. Alford, A. Craig. Colbinabbin: T. Bryant, L. Ezard, C. Guinane, M. McEvoy, H. Sirett, D. Carmody.
White Hills 6.3 10.4 15.5 16.10 (106)
Leitchville Gunbower 2.2 3.3 6.6 9.8 (62)
GOALS – White Hills: W. Kain 6, M. Dee 3, H. Richards, D. Trull 2, J. Clark, D. Fulton, H. Hartley. Leitchville Gunbower: Z. Dye 3, H. Harmer 2, K. Aitken, L. Pollock, R. Pollock, M. Spittal.
BEST – White Hills: W. Kain, D. Trull, D. Bowles, D. Fulton, M. Dee, J. Brittain. Leitchville Gunbower: H. McGillivray, G. Carne, M. Spittal, J. Hawken, N. McKenner, T. McGillivray.
White Hills 0.2 3.7 6.7 8.7 (55)
Mount Pleasant 0.4 2.6 3.8 5.13 (43)
GOALS – White Hills: M. McConnell 4, N. McKinley 3, F. Pearce. Mount Pleasant: not supplied.
BEST – White Hills: N. McKinley, P. Crawford, L. Nihill, J. Meersbergen, D. Carter, N. Wallace. Mount Pleasant: N. Burke, A. Clover, F. Bickley, J. Teasdale, B. White, L. Ledwidge.
wford, L. Nihill, J. Meersbergen, D. Carter, N. Wallace. Mount Pleasant: N. Burke, A. Clover, F. Bickley, J. Teasdale, B. White, L. Ledwidge.