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.