A DREAM first season in the Central Victorian Football League Women's competition has ended in premiership glory for Golden Square.
No more than seven months after discussions were first held with the idea of forming a team, Bulldogs captain Sarah Baldwin and coach Rick Ladson hoisted the premiership cup aloft at Weeroona Oval on Sunday following a 25-point triumph over Kangaroo Flat.
The Bulldogs, led by best on ground medallist Gemma Free, defeated the Roos 4.6 (30) to 0.5 (5).
While the Bulldogs led from the moment Tiffany Bradley booted the game's opening goal in the first quarter, and defensively managed to keep the Roos' goal-less for the entire game, it was not until about midway through the final term that they could feel safe in victory.
Played in wet and rainy conditions for the bulk of the contest, goals were at a premium.
Goals to Bradley and Jess Cox in the opening term and an 11-point margin at the break proved insurmountable for a gallant Roos, who made their rivals earn each and every possession.
The Bulldogs were brilliantly led by the skipper Baldwin, ruck Free, Cox, Olivia McEvoy, Holly Guerra and Carly McRae, who was given the important task on the league's leading goal scorer Kelly Mensforth.
Coach Ladson praised his players' resilience in withstanding plenty of challenges through the season and being able to hold their nerve in the big dance.
"We were a strong side throughout the year, but we got challenged a lot," he said.
"We got lucky with a few recruits who walked in through the back door with a netball background and basketball - that really helps in a footy sense.
"For the ones who were starting out it was hard work, but it was great to get reward for effort.
"The girls have put in so much work on the track and are always trying to improve themselves. I am just so proud of them."
Both Ladson and his opposite number Mark Hull predicted only better times ahead for women's football in Bendigo
"It was a cracking contest and the girls don't hold back," Ladson said.
"Women's footy is just going to get bigger and bigger.
"I'm so happy I got the opportunity to coach the women. Some of these girls have never played footy before and now they are flying. Every week someone is getting better and it's just amazing to watch it."
I'm so happy I got the opportunity to coach the women. Some of these girls have never played footy before and now they are flying.Rick Ladson
While disappointed with a loss, Kangaroo Flat can rest secure in the knowledge it was a clear second best team in the competition.
The Roos made amazing gains in 2019 after missing a spot in the finals in the league's inaugural 2018 season.
Hull said he could not have been prouder of his players and was quick to congratulate Golden Square on being a worthy premier.
"Given the conditions it was a great standard of footy; we just couldn't get over the top in the end," he said.
"The biggest thing for me was that at no stage did we ever give up.
"They have been the best team all year and we gave them a real run for their money, we just couldn't get there in the end.
"That's closer than we've got the last few times. I feel if we had of got one goal, things might have started flowing."
Midfielder Eilish Cumming was the recipient of the medal as second best on ground for an outstanding game.
Rachel Thomas, Shelby Faulkner, Shelby Knoll and Kate Hare were prominent throughout in keeping the Roos in touch with the Bulldogs.
Hull felt the Roos could only be stronger next season, with up to five players ready to step up from the club's under-18 team.
"Women's footy is booming - I think most people walking away from the game (on Sunday) realise the level of footy in Bendigo is awesome," he said.
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