Neutral supporters may say it didn’t live up to the hype, but Saturday’s BFNL grand final was everything Eaglehawk supporters had waited a decade for.
Crammed in on the hill at the Barnard Street end, the Hawks faithful created a raucous atmosphere, the likes of which isn’t often seen at local football matches.
And they got what they wanted. After last year’s disappointment, the Hawks were unrelenting, controlling the contest throughout to claim a first flag since 2008.
Josh Bowe thanked his team, his club and his community as the winning coach. And the latter part of that combination can’t be overlooked in assessing how Eaglehawk won the flag.
Nor can Bowe’s impact. He took over from the foundation Luke Monaghan had laid and instead of just building on it, he put up a glittering three-storey mansion.
Leaving Matt Gretgrix out took courage, and it was the right move. Gretgrix has been and is a champion player, but the Hawks were a better chance to win the grand final without him.
In attack, Eaglehawk were unpredictable, and they had an edge in defence where their speed was too much for the Storm forwards to handle.
Jonty Neaves and Brodie Collins won the best on ground medals, each deserving in their own right.
Neaves played under severe duress with a dislocated elbow and was dominant in ruck and around the ground, while Collins, long the heart and soul of Eaglehawk’s side, was his usual brilliant self.
Right across the day there were many memorable moments, played out under the glorious spring sunshine.
The A-grade netball final was as good as any in recent memory, Gisborne rallying late to push the match to extra time but Sandhurst taking control thereafter.
Kyneton came back from three goals down with three minutes left in A-reserve to claim the premiership and close a difficult few weeks at Tigerland in positive fashion.
South Bendigo’s B-reserve triumph also took until extra time and saw two long-time figures within the club’s netball setup, Emma Tomlins and Mel Dillon, go out on top.
And Sandhurst’s James Vlaeminck provided magic of his own in the under-18 game, kicking seven goals in Sandhurst’s loss to Gisborne.
But the real spark was provided by the day itself to cap an intriguing season, a season in which the Hawks and Josh Bowe soared to new heights.