Alex Mitchell

The Riverine Herald - - LOCAL CLASSIES -

LEITCHVILLE-GUN­BOWER’S premier­ship tri­umph on Satur­day was one of, if not the lo­cal sport­ing mo­ment of the year.

The sto­ry­lines were tan­ta­lis­ing — LG seek­ing re­venge, North Bendigo look­ing for a third straight ti­tle, and the fierce ri­valry that has de­vel­oped be­tween the Heath­cote and District league’s best two clubs.

The game lived up to the oc­ca­sion, al­though the Bombers al­ways seemed some­what in con­trol of the con­test with­out kicking away, sav­ing a burst for the fi­nal quar­ter to put the game to bed.

It’s hard to say if it’s worse to lose in a grand fi­nal or sim­ply lose all sea­son and not make fi­nals, but you’d have to think no team has suf­fered as much heart­break as LG in the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons, with grand fi­nal losses of 10 and 20 points.

There was a sense of re­lief for some Bombers just as much as elation af­ter the fi­nal siren. The nine play­ers that played in the two pre­vi­ous de­ciders were spared the blushes of a third straight heart­break­ing loss against the same op­po­nent.

A fiery con­test was ex­pected; a back and forth be­tween coaches in the leadup re­gard­ing the per­ceived tar­get­ing of LG big man Michael Pilcher only adding fuel to an al­ready burn­ing ri­valry.

The sug­ges­tion from the Bombers’ camp that Pilcher had been de­lib­er­ately worked over phys­i­cally in the semi­fi­nal be­tween the two teams be­fore re­ceiv­ing a corked thigh that even­tu­ally ruled him out of the grand fi­nal was not taken kindly by North coach Rob Ben­nett, who took the ac­cu­sa­tion as a per­sonal at­tack on both him and his play­ers.

En­coun­ters be­tween the sides have been phys­i­cal, Hawken sug­gest­ing his younger play­ers had re­ceived a les­son in bor­der­line-le­gal play from the Bull­dogs in the away trip to North Bendigo ear­lier in the sea­son.

But nei­ther this ri­valry, nor the grand fi­nal, is de­fined by vi­o­lent play but by the com­pe­ti­tion and re­spect be­tween the sides.

Both teams re­alise how strong the other is and bring the best foot­ball out of the other. This is surely one of the many rea­sons why the LG tri­umph was so mean­ing­ful.

The emo­tion of the play­ers and coaches was on full show at the fi­nal siren. And no­body was more emo­tional than the loyal Hoby Bussey, who af­ter nine years at the club fi­nally tasted the ul­ti­mate suc­cess.

Main­stays like Steve Pretty and Lee Pol­lock also had earned the re­ward as had Daniel Couwen­berg, Matt Perri and Tim Lin­coln, the trio just some of the 2015 in­clu­sions coin­cid­ing with the young club’s most suc­cess­ful pe­riod.

They also pin-pointed what was needed in re­cruit­ing when ad­dress­ing the 2016 grand fi­nal loss — on-field lead­er­ship.

Pilcher was brought

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