A DOMINANT team performance all over the ground catapulted Bendigo to its biggest inter-league win for 17 years against Outer East at the QEO on Saturday.
On a perfect day for football, Bendigo demolished Outer East by 99 points, 18.17 (125) to 3.8 (26), to climb from 10th to 8th in the AFL Victoria Community Championships rankings.
Outer East had gone into the clash as the higher-ranked team, but you wouldn't have known it such was the way it was carved up by a brilliant Bendigo outfit whose winning margin of 99 points was its greatest since a 134-point shellacking of Bellarine in 2002.
Coached by Darryl Wilson, the slick Bendigo simply had too much power through the midfield, an arsenal of key targets forward of centre and a resolute backline that conceded just three goals across the 113 minutes.
Bendigo looked set to boast a triple-figure victory when Alex Marklew's second goal late in the final quarter pushed the home side's advantage to a game-high 105 points.
However, Bendigo had to settle for the 99-point margin after Outer East's Matt Homfray kicked the final goal of the game to bring the difference back under 100.
While Bendigo finished with a scoreline of 18.17, it spent most of the day with more behinds than goals on the board before a 6.2 final term lifted its conversion into the positive.
Falling into the trap of being handball happy at times, Bendigo's speed of ball movement from the outset was threatening and it was one of the Blue and Gold's runners, Jake Thrum, who earned the best player medal.
Thrum started the match on the bench, but was busy from the moment he entered the game, collecting possessions all over the ground and kicking one of Bendigo's four first-quarter goals.
Bendigo's score of 4.4 at quarter-time was already two points more than Outer East would kick for the entire game.
Young key forward Jack Scanlon kicked two of Bendigo's goals in the first term as he wasted no time imposing himself in his first senior inter-league match.
Scanlon - the equal youngest player in the side at 19 - took four marks in the first term and would later end the game as one of 12 goalkickers for Bendigo as half the team of 24 hit the scoreboard.
Bendigo kicked the first seven goals of the match and had 17 scoring shots to three on the board before Outer East finally scored its first major at the 23-minute mark of the second term through captain Marcus Hottes out of a stoppage.
However, Hottes' goal was answered soon after by a burst of three in three minutes to Bendigo on-ballers Jake O'Brien, Ben McPhee and Matt Goodyear that pushed the Blue and Gold's lead to 60 points at half-time, 10.10 to 1.4.
With Bendigo having killed the contest off by half-time, the main interest after the break was whether the Blue and Gold could push on and convert its 10-goal advantage into a win by over 100 points and hope there would be no injury blows.
Golden Square supporters would have shuddered at the sight of their star Adam Baird limping off the ground in the arms of trainers nine minutes into the third term.
However, Baird - who produced another impressive inter-league performance winning a stack of ball patrolling the swimming pool wing - returned to the field five minutes later after his injury had been a cork behind the knee.
Bendigo did play the final quarter one rotation down though after Strathfieldsaye's Sam Heavyside sat out with a hamstring concern.
Bendigo could have easily borrowed a line from junior sport of years gone by in simply putting "team effort" for its best players such was the spread of contributors across the ground.
But along with the hard-running Thrum, the fellow contenders for the best-on-on-ground medal honours were led by skipper Jack Geary, Nathan Horbury and Bryce Curnow.
Geary produced another customary big stage leader's performance in the engine room from the first siren to the last and also got forward to kick two goals in the second half, while his bullocking work in the middle helped Bendigo win the centre clearance count 14-8.
The polished Horbury was outstanding across half-back in the first half in particular when he was integral in laying the foundation for Bendigo's big win.
Horbury - the Bendigo league's version of Scott Pendlebury given he's a classy left-footer who makes the game stand still around him - generated plenty of forward thrusts in what was a reminder of his inter-league game back in 2015 when he tore Bendigo apart while playing for rivals Ballarat.
Centre half-back Curnow marshalled the defence superbly, with he and his fellow backline group of Liam Barrett, Harrison Huntley, Jake Pallpratt, Josh Govan and Horbury - all Bendigo debutantes - deserving plenty of praise in not only restricting Outer East to three goals, but for the way in which they were able to springboard Bendigo out of the back half.
Outer East struggled all day to counteract Bendigo's defensive zone and as such had just two set-shots at goal in the first three quarters with fluent passages of play from the visitors a rarity.
With a Bendigo forward line boasting the likes of marking targets in Lachlan Sharp, Hugh Robertson, Scanlon, Jayden Burke and Pat McKenna, the Outer East defence was always going to be in for a testing afternoon.
Those five players all booted goals, with Scanlon (three) and Sharp (two) among five multiple goalkickers for Bendigo that also featured Jake O'Brien (two), which included a 50m roost to the Barnard Street end in the third quarter, Geary (two) and Marklew (two).
After losing its previous two matches, Bendigo's 99-point margin was the biggest across Saturday's 16 senior inter-league games and featured 16 first-time players.
3 min - Jack
Bendigo leads 6-0
8 - Jayden Burke (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 13-0
20 - Jake Thrum (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 21-3
21 - Jack Scanlon (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 27-3
7 - Hugh Robertson (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 36-3
11 - Lachlan Sharp (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 44-3
20 - Alex Marklew (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 52-3
23 - Marcus Hottes (OE)
Bendigo Leads 52-9
28 - Jake O'Brien (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 58-10
29 - Ben McPhee (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 64-10
30 - Matt Goodyear (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 70-10
11 - Jake O'Brien (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 79-11
24 - Jack Geary (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 87-13
1 - Josh Govan (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 93-13
2 - Jack Geary (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 99-13
12 - Lachlan Sharp (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 106-13
18 - Jack Scanlon (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 112-13
21 - Luke Bee-Hugo (OE)
Bendigo leads 112-19
24 - Pat McKenna (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 119-20
26 - Alex Marklew (Bgo)
Bendigo leads 125-20
27 - Matthew
Bendigo leads 125-26
Jack Geary (c), Adam Baird, Liam Barrett, Jayden Burke, Brodie Collins, Bryce Curnow, Callum Crisp, Harry Crone, Matt Goodyear, Josh Govan, Sam Heavyside, Bailey Henderson, Nathan Horbury, Harrison Huntley, Jake O'Brien, Jake Pallpratt, Rhys Magin, Alex Marklew, Pat McKenna, Ben McPhee, Hugh Robertson, Jack Scanlon, Lachlan Sharp, Jake Thrum.
Coach - Darryl Wilson
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