COLBINABBIN is now the only undefeated team in the Heathcote District league after handing Lockington-Bamawm United its first loss in exactly 1000 days on Saturday.
Before Saturday the Cats hadn't been beaten since losing to Mount Pleasant in the 2019 first semi-final.
But what was an 18-game winning streak came to a grinding halt for the Cats as the Grasshoppers dominated in a 12.9 (81) to 4.10 (34) victory at home.
"I'm really proud of the effort of all 22 boys who played today," Colbinabbin coach Julian Bull said.
"We had been working on putting a plan in place all week and the execution of that was fantastic.
"We were very willing and up for the contest today knowing we were coming up against of the tougher and stronger teams in the competition.
"Our pressure was really good today... when we bring our pressure game we play some really good footy and that's where we were at today."
What had shaped as an absorbing contest leading in between two unbeaten teams was well in control of at half-time by Colbinabbin when it led the Cats by 34 points, 7.4 to 1.6.
Restricting the Cats to a final score of just 34, not surprisingly, there was a strong representation of defenders in the Grasshoppers' best players - Matt Riordan, who suffered a hamstring injury late in the game, Ben Southam, Ben Barton and David Price.
"I thought our backs were fantastic today in the way they were able to attack the ball in the air, intercept mark, punch the ball away and then win it back... I thought that was a real key to us," Bull said.
"Even though the score probably doesn't look like it, the inside 50s were fairly even for the day, which shows not only how good our backs were, but how good our pressure on the ball was."
James Brain continued his sparkling form for the Grasshoppers, kicking more goals than LBU did with his bag of five - the fifth game in a row he has slotted at least five.
The Grasshoppers' win was a double celebration for stalwart ruckman Hadleigh Sirett in what was his 200th senior game for the club.
"Being a premier ruckman and a multiple inter-league ruckman, Hadleigh has had some huge offers thrown at him over the years to go elsewhere," Bull said.
"To knock them back and stay at his local club and still be doing what he's doing in dominating against some really good ruckmen is an absolute credit to both him and his wife and kids to be able to keep supporting him.
"Without Hadleigh we'd be in a fair bit of trouble because we fall away in our ruck stocks pretty quickly."
Cats' coach Brodie Collins said his side was let down by poor skill execution.
"The feeling was good before the game and we had our chances to be in front at quarter-time with plenty of opportunities (kicked 0.4), but we couldn't capitalise," said Collins, who was reported for striking during the third quarter.
"Our skills let us down and Colbo was just too good for us and showed today they deserve top spot."
The best for the Cats was teenager Baxter Anderson in his senior debut.
"He's a 17-year-old out of the thirds who showed us how it's done today," Collins said.
"He didn't do a lot wrong at all for the day, kicked our only goal in the first half and played well."
The Atkins Street clash between North Bendigo and Mount Pleasant promised plenty and delivered with a one-point thriller.
With scores level 59 apiece late in the game, a Nick Waterson behind on the run from 35m on an angle for North Bendigo proved to be the winning score.
The Blues did have the last chance to either win or draw the game, but a shot at goal on the run from Caelan Smith sailed out on the full, with the Bulldogs finishing 8.12 (60) to 8.11 (59) victors.
It was a game that came at a costly blow for both clubs, with North Bendigo half-back Lachlan Ford's season over following a broken ankle during the last quarter, while Mount Pleasant co-coach Adam Baird is facing at least a six-week stint on the sidelines with a broken fibula sustained in the first term.
The game also showcased two of the gun forwards of the competition in North Bendigo's Dylan Klemm and Mount Pleasant's Ben Weightman.
With just 16 goals kicked for the game, Weightman (six) and Klemm (four) combined for 10 of them.
Klemm was awarded the Gus Roulston Cup, which is presented to the best player in the first match each year between the Bulldogs and Blues.
Klemm's selection came a fortnight after he won the Keith Robertson Medal as North Bendigo's best player in its win over Huntly.
"It was a tight contest all day and, fortunately, we were able to hang on," North Bendigo coach Rob Bennett said.
"There was a lot of contested footy and a lot of tackling pressure, but both sides were also inaccurate in front of goal."
The victory was the most notable of the season for the Bulldogs so far given they had fallen short in their previous two major tests against Colbinabbin in round one and Lockington-Bamawm United last week.
"I said to the guys after the game that I'm rapt we won a close one," Bennett said.
"After last week (10-point loss to LBU) it's good to get a bit of reward... even if it was only by one point today."
As well as Klemm winning the Gus Roulston Cup, the Bulldogs also had standout players in centre half-back Shane Harris, in-form ruckman Jeremy Lambden and midfielder Sean Moyle, whose tackling pressure was a feature.
Following their 5-0 start to the season, the Blues have now lost two in a row after also going down to LBU by 31 points in their previous game before the bye last week.
"We had a plan going into the game of the way we wanted to play and that contest was going to be king at that ground, which it was," Mount Pleasant co-coach Darren Walsh said.
"It was contest after contest all day. We started to get our ball movement going a bit better in the second half."
Walsh said Weightman was the Blues' clear best player and could have kicked a double-figure bag had he made the most of all his chances at goal.
"He was super for us today and it wasn't just his work in the forward line, but when he went into the centre he was the only bloke who could get clean clearances for both teams for the day," Walsh said.
Weightman has kicked at least four goals in all seven games this season and now has a competition-best 37.
The Blues' best also featured three players who returned to the side in Sam Greene, vice-captain Bryce Hinneberg and Travis Baird.
White Hills celebrated David Wright's 250th senior game for the club with a 75-point win over Leitchville-Gunbower at home.
A five-goal to one opening term for the Demons paved the way for their 19.14 (128) to 8.5 (53) bounce-back victory following last week's loss to Heathcote.
"We had a chat among the group on Tuesday night about what is and isn't working for us and we came out today and played the way we need to be," White Hills coach Jack Fallon said.
"We had a bit of a lapse in the second quarter, but were able to click back into gear and it was a good all-round team performance in a must-win game.
"It was very hard to pick just six players for the best, which is the way you want it every week.
"Credit to Leitchy, though... they've got some really good young kids, which is promising for the club.
Recruit Liam Bartels was the Demons' standout player kicking eight goals, while midfielders Ryan Walker and Patrick Eefting were also prominent.
One of the highlights of the game for the Demons - who are now 3-4 and just percentage outside the top five - was the long set-shot goal from milestone man Wright in the last quarter.
"He had a set-shot from about 50m out, so that was some icing on the cake and we all got around the big fella," Fallon said.
"It was a really good day for the club to get a lot of people back who have played with and coached Dave, so to put on a performance like that was a really special day."
The Bombers were coached by assistants Ayden Walton and Nathan McLennan.
Coach Tim Bannan was at the game, but confined to his car with a throat, chest and ear infection.
"I'd say our first two quarters were probably our best of the season in terms of our pressure around the contest," Bannan said.
"We put a lot of pressure on and forced White Hills to have to make quick decisions in that first half, but we went back to our old ways in the last quarter for a period where they were able to kick five quick goals and that blew the margin out.
"There were a lot more positives today, but we still weren't able to stick at it for four quarters, so we'll keep working away."
Oskar Smartt, backman Matt McLellan and Leyton Shenfield led the best players for the Bombers, who had Tom Guerra and Nathan McLellan kick two goals each.
After losing its first six games, Elmore has strung together back-to-back victories.
The Bloods followed up last week's breakthrough win over Leitchville-Gunbower with a 19-point victory at home over Huntly.
A strong first half when they led by 30 points at the main break was the catalyst for the Bloods' 13.9 (87) to 10.8 (68) victory.
"We had super games today from Zac Laffy in the backline, who was just a rock all day, Dylan Gordon and Rhys Holmberg were dominant through the ruck and Kyle Armstrong was fantastic through the midfield," Elmore co-coach Dylan Friedberger said.
"We played really well over the first three quarters, but Huntly finished it off much better than us in the last and nearly could have won the game had we not had a few decisive moments.
"Huntly pressed hard in that last quarter, but I think today we learned to win; the boys stuck to the gameplan and were able to knuckle down when that pressure from Huntly came."
Forward Darcy Laffy slotted four goals for the Bloods - who cop LBU on the rebound next week - to take his season tally to 23.
The loss leaves the Hawks still winless approaching the halfway mark of the season.
Key big man Mitch Christensen (three goals) was best for the Hawks followed by Jayden Cordy and consistent defender Jay McDonald.
Colbinabbin 2.3 7.4 10.8 12.9 (81)
Lockington Bamawm United 0.0 1.2 2.4 4.6 (34)
GOALS: Colbinabbin: J.Brain 5, J.Brain 2, S.Tuohey 2, L.Moore 1, W.Lowe 1, H.Sirett 1; Lockington Bamawm United: B.Anderson 1, R.Woodland 1, J.Collins 1, H.Cobb 1
BEST: Colbinabbin: M.Riordan, B.Southam, B.Barton, J.Brain, D.Brown, D.Price; Lockington Bamawm United: B.Anderson, T.Phillips, R.McIvor, J.Howlett, C.Cox, J.Bacon
Elmore 5.3 8.4 11.6 13.9 (87)
Huntly 3.3 3.4 6.4 10.8 (68)
GOALS: Elmore: D.Laffy 4, K.Armstrong 1, N.Kellow 1, H.Grant 1, S.De Napoli 1, S.McHale 1, S.Lees 1, M.Carson 1, L.Gundry 1; Huntly: M.Christensen 3, L.Gray 2, J.Moon 1, J.Cordy 1, J.Maher 1, J.Cowling 1, M.Billings 1
BEST: Elmore: Z.Laffy, R.Williams, K.Armstrong, D.Gordon, undefined.null, Z.Holmberg; Huntly: M.Christensen, J.Cordy, J.McDonald, G.Chamouras, J.Maher, S.Fiske
White Hills 5.3 8.8 12.11 19.14 (128)
Leitchville Gunbower 1.0 4.4 7.5 8.5 (53)
GOALS: White Hills: L.Bartels 8, C.Kekich 3, P.Eefting 2, M.Sawyer 2, B.Fallon 1, N.McKinley 1, D.Wright 1, K.Skelton 1; Leitchville Gunbower: N.McLellan 2, T.Guerra 2, B.Hawken 1, S.Lewis 1, B.Azzopardi 1, R.Bradley 1
BEST: White Hills: L.Bartels, R.Walker, P.Eefting, N.Moffat, B.Fallon, K.Skelton; Leitchville Gunbower: O.Smartt, M.McLellan, L.Shenfield, T.Brereton, S.Lewis, J.Kervin
North Bendigo 2.4 3.6 6.9 8.12 (60)
Mount Pleasant 3.1 3.5 4.8 8.11 (59)
GOALS: North Bendigo: D.Klemm 4, M.Gray 2, S.Giri 1, Z.Richards 1; Mount Pleasant: B.Weightman 6, B.Hinneberg 1, M.Bennett 1
BEST: North Bendigo: S.Harris, undefined.null, S.Moyle, D.Reid, D.Klemm, N.Waterson; Mount Pleasant : S.Greene, B.Hinneberg, B.Weightman, T.Baird, C.Down, F.White.
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