CALIVIL United flipped the script of its previous two matches against Bridgewater to win the Loddon Valley league premiership on Saturday.
The Demons obliterated the Mean Machine in the second half to triumph by 34 points at Serpentine and win their first flag since 2008.
The second half dominance of the Demons was in stark contrast to the previous two encounters between the sides when Calivil United had twice blown half-time leads against Bridgewater and was beaten.
However, this time the Demons kicked 10 goals to three after the main break to win 13.16 (94) to 8.12 (60) in front of a grand final crowd that paid a gate of $32,000.
In winning the flag Calivil United ended Bridgewater’s league record-setting run of seven premierships in a row, which began against the Demons in 2010.
The Mean Machine worked their way into a position to press hard for their eighth flag on the trot when they extended their 10-point lead at half-time to 17 points eight minutes into the third quarter.
At that stage the Mean Machine led 6.7 to 3.8 and the challenge was being firmly laid down to Calivil United.
But unlike six of their previous seven grand finals – 2013 being the exception – when they had gone in as the red-hot favourites and breezed to the flag, this time the Mean Machine met their match in a Demons side that had finished four games ahead of them on the ladder.
And the Demons showed why they finished top of the ladder with a barnstorming display that swung the momentum their way and proved why the third term is dubbed the “premiership quarter”.
Firstly coach Anthony Dennis nailed a steadying 40m set-shot goal for the Demons against the tide of play.
Bridgewater’s Ben Galea then had an opportunity shortly after to answer and extend the Mean Machine’s advantage again, but his set-shot missed.
From the kick-in the Demons unleashed their best play of the game to that stage when they transitioned the ball down the wing, Matt Magee marked inside 50 and handballed to skipper Ben Knight, who goaled on the run in the pocket.
It gave the Demons a massive lift and was a sign of what was to come.
Dennis and Knight’s goals were the first two of what became 10 unanswered for the Demons, who gained the ascendancy in the midfield, sharpened up their disposal going inside 50 and ramped their pressure up on the Mean Machine, who were unable to combat their run.
Having kicked just three goals for the first 71 minutes of the game, the Demons kicked five in 14 minutes, with Dennis and Knight’s majors followed by three more to Bryce Curnow, Luke Marchesi and Lachlan O’Neil, with the Mean Machine helpless to stop the onslaught.
Curnow’s goal put the Demons up by one point – they wouldn’t surrender the lead for the rest of the game – and was followed by a look to the heavens above in honour of his father, Owen, who died earlier this year.
What had been a 17-point deficit early in the term had become a 16-point advantage for the Demons at three quarter-time – 8.12 to 6.8.
And the Demons didn’t let up, kicking the crucial first goal of the final term when wingman Nathan Ryan ran onto a loose ball.
Everything the Demons touched turned to gold as Curnow threw his boot to a ball in mid-air 35m out and it bounced through.
When O’Neil, Dennis and Curnow – who combined for seven for the match – added to their goal tallies the Demons had piled on 10 in a row and their lead ballooned out to 44 points at the 22-minute mark.
It had been a 61-point turnaround in just 44 minutes, before the Mean Machine kicked the final two goals of the match in junk time through Tom Kuhne and the retiring Rick Ladson.
Fittingly, it was Demons coach Dennis who had the ball in his hands after he took a mark as the final siren sounded on the premiership win – and the end of the Mean Machine streak.
Bridgewater had both Deon Jones and skipper Zeb Broadbent yellow-carded and reported during the game, meaning the Mean Machine twice had to play one man down on the field.
Jones was sent off at the seven-minute mark of the first term for striking the Demons’ Jake Lawry. Calivil United kicked 2.2 to 1.1 while it had the one-man advantage early.
Broadbent, on 12 matches suspension in his career, was sent off midway through the final quarter for striking the Demons’ Lachlan McAllister as the game turned ugly.
Broadbent had returned to the field after leaving the ground late in the third term with a dislocated shoulder.
The Demons’ Marchesi was a clear winner of the AFL Victoria Country Medal for his superb game that was highlighted by four goals.
Marchesi kicked all three of the Demons’ goals in the first half and added a fourth during the third term.
He kicked the first goal of the game after 18 minutes, and then slotted his second before the ball had been bounced again as Bridgewater paid the early price for undisciplined play.
Of the eight goals Bridgewater kicked for the game, four came in the second quarter in what was its best period of a game that had been a battle of the backlines in the first half.
Calivil United 2.3, 3.7, 8.12, 13.16 (94)
Bridgewater 1.2, 5.5, 6.8, 8.12 (60)
GOALS – Calivil United: L. Marchesi 4, B. Curnow 3, L. O'Neil, A. Dennis 2, B. Knight, N. Ryan. Bridgewater: T. Kuhne 2, T. Broadbent, Z. Broadbent, B. Galea, M. Lindsay, K. Bloom, R. Ladson.
BEST – Calivil United: L. Marchesi, C. Down, S. Brinsmead, M. Brewer, J. Lea, J. Somerville. Bridgewater: T. Broadbent, B. Galea, L. Harrison, X. Henderson, D. Nalder, Z. Broadbent.
Click here for links to photos from the day.