WHEN it comes to the sporting field, nothing quite stirs the passion among Bendigo like a showdown with Ballarat.
Be it on the footy field, cricket pitch, basketball court, in the swimming pool or simply a game of marbles, we Bendigonians love gaining the upper hand over our Ballarat counterparts.
Unfortunately, with the imminent demise of the Bendigo Gold in less than a month now, the curtain came down on the inter-city goldfields rivalry at VFL level last Saturday when Bendigo and the North Ballarat Roosters locked horns for the last time.
And just has been the case so often in battles between Bendigo and North Ballarat, it was a resounding win to the Roosters by 79 points.
Over Bendigo’s 17 seasons in the VFL that started in round one, 1998, when the Diggers lost to North Ballarat by seven points at the QEO, we’ve had very little to spruik about when it comes to games against the Roosters.
The Bendigo-North Ballarat games always had an extra buzz in the build-up due to that rivalry between the two cities, but more often than not the clashes fizzled out.
The record between the two clubs will finish at 26 meetings for 23 North Ballarat wins and just three Bendigo victories. Twelve of the Roosters’ 23 wins were by more than 50 points.
And you can’t help but feel the rivalry was never fully cashed in on in Bendigo, with just seven of the 26 meetings played at the QEO, including only two in the past seven years.
Yet amazingly, for all the torture Bendigo has copped at the hands of North Ballarat over the years - none more so than the 2007 elimination final when the Bendigo Bombers led by 54 points at half-time, only to lose by 37 - the history books will show our biggest VFL win was against the Roosters when the Bombers thumped them by 98 points in round four, 2005.
While Bendigo has floundered in the VFL for much of its time, the Roosters - who have played in five grand finals and won three premierships - have flourished on the back of what Bendigo craved.
Most notably, a traditional supporter base built on more than 130 years of history when the club was initially formed as Ballarat North in 1882 and later entered the VFL in 1996.
But more telling, the impressive North Ballarat Sports Club that must rub salt into the wounds of all those involved at the Diggers in 1999 when the plans for a similar facility at the QEO were developed, only to have it knocked on the head by the council, therefore consigning Bendigo’s VFL club to a lifespan without a home.
While Bendigo through its guises as the Diggers, Bombers and Gold were shunted around the city from office to office and with nowhere to hang honour boards or enjoy a post-game drink, check out www.northballaratsc.com.au/ and the facilities the Roosters call home at Eureka Stadium – a ground (pictured) that is also being mooted as a potential AFL home and away venue, further showing just how far ahead Ballarat is.
As much as we in Bendigo despise Ballarat when it comes to sport, the Roosters - who have a strong and healthy partial AFL alignment with North Melbourne - have well and truly shown that with the right infrastructure in place as a starting block to compliment the work of master coach Gerard Fitzgerald, a regionally-based team can not only compete in the VFL, but prosper.