NORTH Bendigo has earned the chance to end one of the region’s longest premiership droughts after winning its way into the Heathcote District Football League grand final on Saturday.
The Bulldogs - who haven’t won a senior premiership since 1977 - proved too good for Leitchville-Gunbower in Saturday’s second semi-final at White Hills, winning 16.14 (110) to 12.16 (88).
“It’s obviously good to get through to a grand final, but there was no celebrating by the boys after the game; they know that’s only half the job done and there’s still a lot of work to be done yet,” North Bendigo co-coach Rob Bennett said.
North Bendigo made its match-winning move in the third quarter after the game had been in the balance at half-time with the Bulldogs ahead by four points, 8.10 to 8.6.
But the Bulldogs broke the game open with a six goal to one third term to set up a 33-point advantage at three quarter-time.
“We peppered the goals in that third quarter and probably could have kicked a few more,” Bennett said.
“We rushed ourselves at times, but going into three quarter-time with a five-goal lead holds you in good stead.”
However, the Bulldogs were conscious of not letting up in the final term after the Bombers had pulled off a miraculous late revival against Lockington-Bamawm United in the qualifying final the previous week.
“There was a big emphasis at three quarter-time that they would keep coming at us, which they did,” Bennett said.
“We were able to weather it against the wind and play a bit of keepings-off, but overall, our guys were fantastic in the second half.”
Earlier, the Bombers got the jump on the Bulldogs, kicking the opening three goals of the game.
“We were stagnant early, didn’t work hard enough and let them play their style of footy,” Bennett said.
“But we turned it around and got the result.”
Bulldog gun Darcy Richards hurt his shoulder during the game, but Bennett said he would be right to play in the grand final on September 6.
The Bulldogs’ best player was Cameron Lomas, who revelled in his run-with role on Jye Keath.
Veteran ruckman Tony Plim, grunt midfielder Daniel Sipthorp, Alex Shipard (three goals), Ash Craig, who kept the Bombers’ Joel Helman to two goals, and Ryan Alford (nine inside-50s) were also standouts for the Bulldogs, who have made their second grand final in three seasons.
However, unlike 2012 when they lost to LBU by 94 points after surviving three cut-throat finals to make the grand final, this time it’s only taken one game to get to the decider.
Leitchville-Gunbower - which kicked five of its 12 goals in the first quarter - was best served by onballer Russell Lee, wingman Will Brereton, midfielder Steve Pretty, who all continued their good form from last week, and ruckman Cameron Ross.
Jake Williams kicked three goals for the Bombers.
“We dropped away in that third quarter... we stopped hunting the ball for a period and they got a few quick goals and that was the difference in the end,” Bombers coach Marty Shadbolt said.
“But we took a bit of belief out of the game that we’re good enough to match them when we’re playing good footy.
“We’ve just got to make sure we prepare ourselves well for another big game next week and hopefully, we get another crack at them in a fortnight.”
The Bombers had Joel Donehue (ill) a late withdrawal before the game.
As well as North Bendigo, also through to grand finals after wins on Saturday are White Hills (reserves) and Mount Pleasant (under-17s).