RELATED – GRAND FINAL PREVIEW
BENDIGO has withstood a spirited Bendigo East fightback to clinch the Bendigo Bowls Division A1 premiership.
Played at Kangaroo Flat on Sunday, Bendigo emerged victorious in a nail-biter 91-89.
It was Bendigo's second premiership win over Bendigo East in three years and third grand final victory since 2013.
Bendigo looked to be cruising to premiership honours when it led by 13 shots at the break after 39 ends.
With Barry Ansett's rink seemingly in control 16-8 ahead and Damien Mason's rink holding an edge over Aaron Tomkins, Bendigo was able to increase its lead to 15 shots after 41 ends.
Still trailing by 11 shots after 51 ends, Bendigo East launched a stirring comeback, gradually reducing the deficit to hit the front after 71 ends.
From there the contest sea-sawed, with the lead changing nearly 10 times en-rout to a dramatic ending.
Trailing 87-78 after 94 ends, Bendigo East picked up four shots courtesy of coach Darren Burgess' rink to again reduce the margin.
Some cool-headed play by Burgess and teammates Barry Edwards, Paul Vlaeminck and Brian Griffin ensured the scores were tied with just two ends to be decided.
But with Andrew Brown and Mason's rink both drawing a shot, Bendigo held on for a remarkable win.
Brown, whose rink won its battle with Bendigo East star David 'Crackers' Keenan by a solitary shot 26-25, said Bendigo was forced to dig deep to overcome the reigning premiers.
As it was Keenan delivered the final bowl of the game, with his team still a chance at victory.
"Bendigo East are a champion side, they've been in eight out of the last nine grand finals, they have some stars players, state players," he said.
"For us to hold on and dig back into it was fantastic."
He said watching Keenan play the final bowl was as nerve-racking as it gets.
"I could probably pick 150 players to play the bowl rather than him," he said.
"He's Bendigo East's best player and for him to play the last bowl, I was a bit nervous, but we played a good last end to win the game."
It was a history making occasion, with Bendigo's Amelia Bruggy becoming the first female player to be part of a BBD division one premiership.
In 2015, she became the first female teenager to play division one pennant in the BBD, while two years before that she became the youngest Bendigo Bowls Club ladies champion at the age of 15.
Her skipper Brown said the now 18-year-old had been fantastic all season.
She played last year when we lost (the grand final) - she's actually living in Hobart now and she's flown back for the last two games," he said.
"The effort for her to come over and play is what makes our side special."
The win was Bendigo’s second win this season over Bendigo East in four meetings.
Both the premiers’ wins came in finals, with Bendigo claiming the honours in the teams’ qualifying final win by 14 shots.
Bendigo East coach Burgess praised his players' resilience after fighting back from an early deficit and also the opposition's effort to regroup after they were headed.
"It was very thrilling, but we were just not quite good enough in the end," he said.
"The Bendigo boys just got those couple of shots at the end to win.
"We set ourselves to have a good start but that didn't happen. Another 20 ends in after the break we started to come at them and got the momentum, but we couldn't go on with it.
"It was a good team effort from Bendigo. I think when it's that close and can just come down to one end, or one ball that can win a game and in the end it was Damien Mason's bowl for Bendigo that was the killer."
Burgess said he was unsure whether he would coach on next season, but would undoubtedly play on for the Magpies, who have four of the last eight premierships in division one.
BBD grand final results:
Bendigo 14/91 d Bendigo East 4/89.
A. Brown 26 d. D. Keenan 25
D. Mason 20 lt A. Tomkins 21
B. Ansett 24 d M. Smith 19
I. Ross 21 lt to D. Burgess 24
South Bendigo 18/97 d Bendigo East 0/74
J Turley 24 d S Fuller 22
J Geldart 20 d P Huggard 13
C Adams 23 d J Clough 17
G Bacchin 30 d L Hull 22
North Bendigo 2/77 lt White Hills 16/105
B Hogan 17 lt M Anderson 33
M George 29 d S Arbuckle 21
B Greenwood 15 lt P Brown 24
D Taig 16 lt S O'Connor 27
South Bendigo 4/77 lt Bendigo 14/104
D Mellington 24 d J Beecham 19
N Gaskell 25 d B Craig 23
D Conley 16 lt J Trickey 23
J Hayes 12 lt J Cassidy 39
Calivil 16/122 d Castlemaine 2/82
B Meighan 30 d B Jury 21
A Leech 42 d J Bassett 16
J Pickles 17 lt M Stevens 20
W Miles 33 d B Leavy 25
Dingee 15/112 d Harcourt 3/77
C Koch 42 d D Gale 12
J Jackman 29 d K tribe 23
S Koch 21 lt R Douglas 22
R Thompson 20 t B Buchanan 20
Bendigo VRI 16/83 d Lockwood South 0/64
P Simmons 32 d A Manallack 18
I Wilkinson 26 d A Archer 24
M McMahon 25 d B Ede 22
South Bendigo 12/54 d Castlemaine 2/40
B Wood 35 d K Earl 11
J Tynan 19 lt M Walker 29