AT first glance you could have been forgiven for thinking it was an April Fools joke – the team that didn’t win a game last year beating the team that didn’t lose a game.
But it happened in the April 1 opening round of the Loddon Valley season on Saturday when Bears Lagoon-Serpentine created the first headline of 2017 with its upset 21-point win over Bridgewater.
The Bears turned a three-point deficit at three quarter-time into a 14.9 (93) to 10.12 (72) victory in a stunning start to the season.
The win ended the Bears’ 18-game losing streak, with it their first since beating Pyramid Hill by four points in the 2015 qualifying final.
The result also ended Bridgewater’s 30-game winning streak, with it the Mean Machine’s first loss since a 13-point defeat to Pyramid Hill in round five, 2015.
“We went there today giving ourselves a good chance of being competitive and it was a really good win by the boys,” Bears coach Greg Gadsden said.
“Our pressure around the contest was exceptional all day and the boys got their reward at the end of the day for the work they did.”
The Bears’ side featured nine new players.
“A lot of them were young kids aged 22 or under and they all did exceptionally well,” Gadsden said.
“For the club to not win a game of footy in any grade last year and to start the way we have today, with our thirds also having a win, it’s just fantastic,” Gadsden said.
“A lot of hard work has gone in over the pre-season and we had a very even contribution today.”
James Rippingale was a strong focal point for the Bears – who had lost their previous 11 games against Bridgewater – booting six goals, including five in the second half, to be named best.
One of the new players in the side, Brodie Hawke, was among the best for his role through the midfield and across half-back.
Harry Gadsden in the midfield and Orion Crilly-Downing, who played at full-back on Alex Collins (three goals), were also in the Bears’ better players.
The loss was Bridgewater’s first on its home ground, Laser Plumbing Bendigo Oval, since round five, 2013 when beaten by the Bears by three points.
The Mean Machine had won their previous 29 games at home, while for the first time since round three of the 2014 season, they aren’t on top of the ladder.
“We were just outworked today. We had five players on debut, so there has been a bit of personnel change, but there’s no excuse,” Bridgewater coach Marc Lindsay said.
“Around the ball we were beaten on the spread and it was a work-rate issue for us. You can’t buy hunger and we were lacking that today, which is something that hasn’t been said about Bridgewater for a while.
“We’ll have to go back to the drawing board, but take nothing away from Serp, they are a quick side, moved the ball well and had more desire than us.”
Reigning Hardling medallist Zeb Broadbent was named best for Bridgewater, whose side featured 11 of last year’s premiership team.
In a competitive opening round, the Bears’ 21-point win was the biggest margin across the four games.
• Calivil United outlasted Mitiamo by 11 points at 5 Star Stockfeeds Oval.
The Demons – who lost all four matches against the Superoos last year, including the preliminary final – kicked five goals to two in the final term to prevail 10.12 (72) to 8.13 (61).
“It was good to start with a win against a side that has been a bit of a nemesis for us over the past couple of years,” Demons coach Anthony Dennis said.
“It was a bit of a scrappy game… the pressure from both teams was very good, which created a lot of turnovers, but being the first game of the year, it will probably take a couple of weeks to get back into the rhythm.”
The Demons’ best was a new recruit in Sam Brinsmead, who provided damaging drive off half-back.
Luke Marchesi, who won plenty of clearances, Sam Green on the wing and Alex Davis, who held Mitiamo coach Justin Maddern to one goal, were also in the best for the Demons, who after kicking 3.9 in the first half booted a more accurate 7.3 in the second.
Dennis got through the game well in what was his return from a knee injury in round two, last year.
Kyle Patten kicked five of Mitiamo’s eight goals to be the Superoos’ best player.
“We turned the ball over through the middle to much and after only playing one practice match, in hindsight we probably should have played a couple more because we were a bit flat today,” Maddern said.
• Maiden Gully YCW Eagles’ new era got away to a winning start with a nine-point victory over Inglewood.
The Eagles withstood a last-quarter surge from the Blues to win 11.15 (81) to 10.12 (72) at Empire State Hotel Oval.
“We made it a bit hard for ourselves, but got it done in the end, which was good,” Maiden Gully YCW Eagles coach Daniel Francis said.
“It was a massive day for the club and it was a really good contest all game.
“Inglewood really came to play and came home strong in the end, but we were able to hang on and it was a good character-building win.”
The Eagles – who are 1-0 for the first time since 2009 – had led by 31 points at three quarter-time, but the Blues surged with the wind in the final term, closing the gap to within a kick.
However, the Eagles’ sealer was kicked by Travis Mercadante.
The best for the Eagles was onballer Dylan Pierce, who did plenty of in-and-under work.
Harley Dunlop across half-back, Brayden Aitken and Bailey Graham were also among the better players for the Eagles, who had captain Cohen Kekich kick three goals.
Inglewood was best served by Brandon Worner, Ben Smith and Ben Conley.
• A third-quarter onslaught against the wind was the catalyst for Newbridge’s 20-point win over Pyramid Hill at Adroit Insurance Group Oval.
The Maroons trailed the Bulldogs by 27 points at half-time, having kicked just three goals to that stage.
But the Maroons unleashed an eight-goal to one third term that lasted 35 minutes to take the ascendancy and set up their 13.9 (87) to 10.7 (67) victory.
“We were disappointing in the first half. We couldn’t get our hands on the footy, but our onballers really lifted in third quarter,” Newbridge coach Matt Dillon said.
“The boys responded well after a half-time rev.”
Recruit Edward Coulthard had a significant impact in his first game for the Maroons in booting five goals to be their best player.
Ryan Burt and Brad Comer also played leading roles for the Maroons.
New key forward Joe McGrath from Charlton kicked five goals in his first game for Pyramid Hill.
Better players for the Bulldogs included Billy Micevski, Paddy Monaghan and Bradley Driscoll.