GISBORNE secured its berth in the Bendigo Football League finals with an 88-point win over Castlemaine on Saturday, set up by a flying start.
The Bulldogs entered round 18 sitting sixth and needed to beat the Magpies at Camp Reserve to be any chance of making the finals.
They made sure from the outset they would hold up their end of the bargain when they raced to a 37-point quarter-time lead on the way to a 26.18 (174) to 13.8 (86) win.
Gisborne’s win – its third in a row – coupled with South Bendigo’s hiding from Eaglehawk, earned the Bulldogs fifth position and a spot in what’s their 12th finals series in their 14 years in the BFL.
“We’re playing ourselves into a bit of finals form, which is pleasing,” Gisborne coach Kevin Fitzgerald said.
“We played well today, especially in the first half when we set the game up.
“Castlemaine stuck at it all game and played some good footy, so it was a good hit-out for us.”
The Bulldogs were outstanding in the first half as they limited the Magpies to just two goals to lead by 86 points at the main break, 15.11 to 2.3.
“I thought we stuck to the processes we needed to today, which has been a real focus over the past few weeks,” Fitzgerald said.
Despite the contest being over at half-time, the Magpies fought the game out to the final siren, matching the Bulldogs’ 11 goals in the second half.
Better players for the Bulldogs included midfielders Shaun Comerford and Casey Summerfield, – who again would have done his Michelsen Medal chances no harm – key defender Tim Walsh and veteran onballer Ollie Messaoudi (three goals).
Talented teenager Patrick McKenna (six) and Tom May (five) combined for 11 goals, while first-gamer Shannon Greetham impressed on debut with his attack on the contest and kicked a goal.
The 88-point loss ends what has been an improved season for Castlemaine, which won three games – equalling the tally of games it won between 2010 and 2012.
Consistent forward Rhys Ford kicked three goals for Castlemaine to end the season with 37. No other Magpie kicked more than nine for the year.
Jordan Gilboy, Jarryd Graham and Josh Gribben were the best for the Magpies, who kicked eight of their 13 goals in the last term.
“Gisborne was very good today,” said Castlemaine coach Brett Fitzpatrick, who indicated he is keen to coach again next season.
“They ran in numbers, used the ball really well and were relentless at the contest, but it was good to see the way we finished the game off in the second half.”