READ MORE - SATURDAY SCOREBOARD - August 17, 2019
ONE of the most dramatic finales to a Heathcote District league home and away season has ended with White Hills edging out Leitchville-Gunbower by a mere 0.10 per cent for the last finals berth.
The Demons' four-point winning margin created a brief period after Saturday's game where it was unclear which of the two sides would play in the elimination final given the percentage implication of the scoreline.
The Bombers had started the day one game and 0.63 per cent ahead of the sixth-placed Demons in what was effectively a do-or-die clash for the last spot in the finals at Scott Street.
While the Demons had gone into the game with the belief that they would likely have to win by at least five points to be guaranteed of bridging the percentage gap, ultimately, the four-point margin - 12.18 (90) to 11.20 (86) - proved enough for White Hills to scrape in by the barest of margins.
In the dying stages of the game the Demons' lead was three points, 89-86 - a scoreline that had the Bombers holding the percentage advantage of 104.19 to 104.13.
However, a shot on the run from the Demons' Mitch Dole that went across the face of goal for a behind ultimately proved the score that elevated White Hills into the finals as it swung the percentage difference back their way, 104.21 to 104.11.
Remarkably, the difference between the Demons playing finals and the Bombers missing has turned out to be just a single point.
"It was obviously a big relief once we knew we had literally scraped in by the skin of our teeth," White Hills coach Sam Kerridge said.
"We did what we had to do today and we'll look forward to having a crack in the finals now.
"We've played some good footy this year and shown we can match it with the best sides, so we'll be looking to have a big week on the track and then hit the ground running next Sunday."
The Demons fought their way back from a 14-point deficit at half-time to level the scores 74 apiece at three quarter-time, paving the way for the dramatic final term.
The Demons were 11 points up 20 minutes into the last term, but a goal to Leitchville-Gunbower's Jack Dye, his sixth, that brought the margin back under a kick at the 27-minute mark created the enthralling closing stages where the season excruciatingly hung in the balance for both sides.
Demons' star Jed Lamb passed the 50-goal mark for the season with another haul of five, while strong-marking forward Kris Bedford (two goals) was White Hills' best.
After hurting a knee last week, the Demons' Doolan Nihill was injured again, this time suffering a dislocated shoulder.
While the Demons are headed to the elimination final against Mount Pleasant next weekend, the Bombers, who have played in four-straight grand finals and won the past two flags, will be rare on-lookers at the business end.
"We're obviously down in the dumps with the result... hopefully, the boys can rally together and we can come back and have a crack again next year," Bombers coach Joel Donehue said.
In what was a heartbreaking result for the Bombers, who were left to rue kicking 1.6 in the last quarter, their star half-back Logan Prout produced a stunning highlight with his soaring mark over the top of Lamb.
MOUNT PLEASANT v HUNTLY
Mount Pleasant guaranteed its finals return for the first time since 2014 with a 53-point win over Huntly.
Given the result of the game at White Hills, it became a match that the Blues needed to win to remain in the top five and after a slow start they did so comfortably at Toolleen, prevailing 16.11 (107) to 7.12 (54).
The Blues trailed by 20 points at the first break, but controlled the last three quarters, kicking 14 goals to two.
"We were a bit scratchy early and weren't playing the way we wanted to," Blues coach Darren Walsh said.
"To Huntly's credit, they were first in for the ball early and their effort was a lot better than ours, but to finish the way we did and win by nine goals in the end was pleasing."
Class forward Ben Weightman slotted five goals to end the home and away season as the competition's leading goalkicker with 79.
The Blues also had Daniel Davie (four) and Cody Green (three) kick multiples, while their best were wingman Zebb Murrell and workhorse midfielder Billy Mahony.
The defeat brings the curtain down on a season in which the Hawks claimed the wooden spoon, with their sole win coming against Heathcote by eight points in round four.
"It was disappointing not to finish off with another win because the boys had been working really hard," said Huntly coach Stacy Fiske, who is continuing in the role next year.
"We've shown we've got plenty of young players who are willing to play the way we want them to and crack in, but we just need to get a bit more experience."
Jack Daley kicked four of Huntly's seven goals and was one of the Hawks' standouts along with ruckman Alex Daniels.
NORTH BENDIGO v COLBINABBIN
North Bendigo has completed a fourth-consecutive undefeated season at home, adding Colbinabbin to its list of Atkins Street victims.
In what was a clash of 1st v 3rd where the finishing positions for both teams were locked in regardless of the result, the Bulldogs won 13.10 (88) to 11.11 (77).
"We didn't play great footy in the first half, but that's taking nothing away from Colbo... they really came to play and applied plenty of pressure," North Bendigo coach Matt Dillon said.
"We hung in for the first half and were then able to break the game open in the third quarter and get a couple of goals up.
"But they came at us again in the last quarter and that's the sort of game it was."
The Bulldogs - who have now been unbeaten at home through all of 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 - have an ankle injury concern to forward Darcy Richards.
With Richards sidelined by half-time and fellow key forward Brady Herdman being rested, the Bulldogs relied on a spread of goalkickers for their winning total.
Ten Bulldogs' players kicked goals, led by Joel Helman (three goals), who was again named his side's best player.
Young forward Hugh Hamilton kicked four of Colbinabbin's 11 goals, with the Grasshoppers' best led by on-baller Nat Nixon.
The Grasshoppers copped yet another season-ending injury, with forward Michael Battista (hamstring) added to the list, while Todd Bryant was concussed in the first half and Chris Guinane injured his back.
"We had 10 more inside 50s than North did, so we certainly had enough play, but they made more of their opportunities when they went forward," Colbinabbin coach Julian Bull said.
The Grasshoppers will now prepare for next Saturday's qualifying final against Lockington-Bamawm United at Gunbower.
HEATHCOTE v ELMORE
The last of the season's 72 home and away games was a thriller as Elmore clung on to beat a fast-finishing Heathcote by one point.
In a twilight game under Elmore's new lights, the Bloods won 13.12 (90) to 13.11 (89) to end the season with a fifth win.
X-factor forward Romain Grenville kicked five goals to be the Bloods' best player, with the match marking the end of Danny Brewster's three-year stint as coach.
"The boys are probably ready for a new voice so, hopefully, they can get someone local who can get a few more players to keep building," Brewster said.
"We've built a platform this year with the players we've brought in and the reserves having more numbers, so with a couple more recruits the club should be in good shape to push for finals next year."
The Bloods' five wins was a significant improvement on last year's one.
For the Saints, they end the season eighth at 1-15, with their only win having come against Huntly in round 13 by 34 points.
The Saints trailed the Bloods by 19 points at three quarter-time, but fell short by the barest of margins, with a goal on the siren to Jack Brooks, who kicked four, leaving the two sides separated by just one point.
"We had our periods where we played good footy, but it was a 10-minute patch in the third quarter where we drifted away from what we wanted to do and went back to some old habits," said Heathcote coach Wayne Primmer, who will be back at the helm for a second season next year.
"We came home hard in the last quarter, but just ran out of time."
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