Geelong Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - ALEX TIGANI

IF Brent Gr­gic was the ar­chi­tect of the Bell Post Hill premier­ship era, then con­sider his for­mer cap­tain and cur­rent suc­ces­sor Brad Martin the mas­ter tac­ti­cian.

In just his first year on the job, Martin has be­come the third man in the club’s his­tory to coach a se­nior premier­ship; adding an­other chap­ter to the Pan­ther’s decade of dom­i­nance.

Ten straight grand fi­nal ap­pear­ances, four con­sec­u­tive flags and now seven of the last eight grand fi­nals con­quered thanks to the Pan­thers’ ac­cu­rate fi­nal score line 17.2 (104) to 9.11 (65).

Nev­er­the­less this bat­tle was won in ad­verse con­di­tions, los­ing ball win­ner Luke Turner in the open­ing minute with a bro­ken nose and frac­tured cheek­bone in a head clash.

“His lower jaw wasn’t lin­ing up straight so from the sec­ond minute of the game we were a man down and we had to use the backup plan im­me­di­ately on the ro­ta­tions,” Martin said.

“We spoke about it be­fore the game, to just keep your head over it. We brought up how quickly things can change af­ter see­ing Jack Brau­man’s in­jury the week be­fore, imag­ine how we’d need to adapt if Renn (Lovitt) broke his an­kle in the first con­test.”

The Pan­thers strung five-straight goals in the sec­ond term to hold an early 39-point lead and did not look back from then on.

Martin paid trib­ute to his side’s pro­fes­sion­al­ism through­out the en­tire fi­nals se­ries. “Once we had that week off we had a mas­sive amount of con­fi­dence with both our se­niors and our re­serves,” he said. “If you keep go­ing week af­ter week af­ter week then you don’t re­ally have that chance to have a proper sit down and re­view. So the fact that we had two weeks to train on the specifics showed to­day around the foot­ball and our in­tent to hold onto it.”

Though Jay­den Et­tridge proved to be most ac­cu­rate find­ing six straight goals from his nine kicks Martin, con­tin­ued to recog­nise his pupils from line to line.

“We had Rhys Burke play on Michael Best and he was at evens — that’s a win in our book given how great of a player Best has been for them,” Martin said. Best, who av­er­aged 27 dis­pos­als in his pre­vi­ous two fi­nals, fin­ished the af­ter­noon with a lowly 15 on this day.

“He de­nied Best the out­side run and in­side 50 en­tries, he just kept on run­ning and it worked,” Martin said.

In sea­son 2017, Martin added the role of a tag­ger back into his side and it paid off again on the week­end when In­ver­leigh star Blake Hutchin­son was held to four dis­pos­als in the first half.

“Daniel Walve and Jack Yates had the role on Hutchy in the mid­dle and they shut him down,” Martin said.

As the fi­nal siren sounded, veter­ans Adrian Fan­tella and Shane Lymer em­braced each other for their sev­enth premier­ship hug, fin­ish­ing with 28 and 19 dis­pos­als re­spec­tively. The game was a spec­ta­cle of cun­ning marks, freak­ish goals and brave con­tests be­fore an ea­ger lo­cal tele­vi­sion au­di­ence on Chan­nel 31.

And one mo­ment will al­ways re­main to the premier­ship coach go­ing into his sec­ond year of re­cruit­ing.

“I re­mem­ber when Mitch Gavin (Anakie re­cruit) took a coura­geous mark down back I was think­ing to my­self, the game’s over he’s now an­other premier­ship player for our club.”


In­ver­leigh’s Blake Hutchin­son flies with Bell Post Hill’s Dan Gray.

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