BRIDGEWATER booked a fourth-straight Loddon Valley Football League grand final berth after a remarkable last-quarter fightback against Bears Lagoon-Serpentine on Saturday.
The Bears looked headed for their first grand final since 1995 when they led Saturday’s second semi-final by 35 points at three quarter-time, 15.13 to 10.8.
However, in a stunning last quarter revival that will be talked about for years to come, Bridgewater came back from the brink to win by one point, 16.14 (110) to 16.13 (109), at Inglewood.
The Mean Machine kicked 6.6 to 1.0 in the final term to run over the top of the Bears and earn a well-deserved week off before playing for their fourth premiership in a row in a fortnight
Saturday’s one-point win comes on the back of the Mean Machine having outlasted Pyramid Hill by five points in extra time in the qualifying final a week earlier.
“I said to the boys at three quarter-time that I was confident we could still win it,” Bridgewater coach Zac East said.
“Brad Rohde kicked a goal on the three quarter-time siren that gave us a bit of momentum.
“It fired the boys up, and then the finals experience we’ve got and that never-say-die attitude really came to the fore.
“We kicked the first couple of goals of the last quarter, won the clearances and our contested possession lifted and we were able to get over the line.”
Bridgewater centre half-back Darren Clutton was moved forward during the last quarter and when he marked and goaled late from 40m, scores were locked together at 109 apiece as the clocked ticked down.
With scores level, the Mean Machine’s Adam Parry kicked what proved to be the match-winning behind when his shot at goal from 50 missed.
Following Parry’s miss, the Mean Machine regained possession and held it until the siren when the Bears’ kick-in went out of bounds without being touched.
The Mean Machine’s last-term revival came after the Bears had increased their lead from 19 points at quarter-time, to 26 at half-time and 35 at three quarter-time.
“Two weeks in a row to have a game finish the way we’ve had... the boys stood up and I couldn’t be more prouder,” said East, whose hamstring injury again kept him sidelined.
Full-forward Alexander Collins kicked six goals for Bridgewater, and in doing so brought up his ton for the season.
Collins will go into the grand final with 102 goals.
Collins was among Bridgewater’s best players, along with the silky-skilled Marc Lindsay and the hard-working Parry through the midfield, forward Jack Hickey, Rohde (three goals) and defender Tristin Nalder.
The win improves Bridgewater’s finals record since 2010 – the year its domination of the competition began – to 8-0.
Saturday was just the Bears’ second loss for the season.
Both losses have been by one point, having also gone down to Newbridge by the same margin in round eight.
“We won each of the first three quarters, so you should win the match from there, but we didn’t and that’s why they’ve won the past three flags,” Bears coach Damien Featherby said.
“They find a way to keep themselves in games, but we probably allowed them to stay in the game through some poor decisions.
“They had that never-say-die attitude today, and when they smelt a bit of blood they went for it.
“It’s obviously very disappointing, but we’ve done a lot of things right this year, so I can’t see any reason why we won’t bounce back next week.”
Rohan Nolan booted six goals for the Bears to be their most dangerous player inside 50.
Other players who played well for the Bears were consistent onballer Adrian Alford, half-back Andrew Gladman, ruckman James Orr and Christian Sargeant.