NEVER has Eaglehawk’s Josh Bowe experienced a better feeling on the football field than the last five minutes of Saturday’s BFNL grand final against Strathfieldsaye.
For it was then with his side more than six goals ahead of the Storm at the QEO the second-year coach knew the Hawks would be the premiers of 2018.
“Once we were more goals up than there was minutes left I was very happy… those last five minutes of the game were just unbelievable and it’s hard to put into words,” Bowe said.
“I’ve played with this club since the under-12s and played in three losing grand finals, so it’s hard to describe what this means.”
Prior to Saturday’s 19.8 (122) to 11.7 (73) victory over the Storm Bowe had suffered through grand final defeats with the Hawks in 2005 to Gisborne, 2011 to Golden Square and last year to Strathfieldsaye.
Last year’s defeat at the hands of the Storm in particular stung given not only was he coach, but the Hawks went from 20 points up at three quarter-time to 32 points down at the final siren after Strathfieldsaye kicked nine unanswered goals.
They were in a similar position on Saturday of 25 points up at three quarter-time when Bowe drew on the learnings of last year and kept the huddle together for an extended period at the final change.
“To be honest I probably felt we rushed it at three quarter-time last year. There was plenty of emotion in that huddle, but today we got the boys to take a few deep breaths, reset, stay in the moment and make sure it (a fadeout) didn’t happen again,” Bowe said.
And it didn’t.
The Hawks slammed on six goals to two in the final quarter, including the last five of the match to secure the club’s 27th premiership.
The premiership 22 featured 17 players who had endured the grand final agony of a year earlier, including 19-year-old ruckman Jonty Neaves, who braved a broken arm and dislocated elbow from two weeks earlier to win the Nalder Medal.
“It was a very severe injury he has been through, but full credit to him. He had been told by a surgeon he wouldn’t run for six weeks, but he was an absolute warrior today,” Bowe said.
Neaves was one of eight players aged 22 or under in the Hawks’ premiership team, which featured 17 one-pointers.
“We’ve got so many kids who are playing like 28-year-olds in their prime. The learning they got from last year really showed today and I couldn’t be more proud of them all,” Bowe said.
Saturday’s win capped an 18-3 season for the Hawks, who won their three finals by a combined 201 points.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.