BUNINYONG has snapped its Hepburn hoodoo, and in the most dramatic of circumstances.
Bombers supporters stormed the Learmonth oval in jubilation following an eight-point, come from behind win in Saturday’s Central Highlands Football League preliminary final.
The victory was Buninyong’s first over the Burras since 2003, and secures its first grand final appearance since the same year.
There was contrasting emotions as the final siren sounded, with the Bombers ecstatic at having completed a minor miracle and Hepburn distraught after a fourth-term capitulation.
Hepburn had a stranglehold on the contest at half time, leading by 32 points, and appeared on its way to another decider with a 20-point buffer at the final change.
And even mid-way through the last quarter, it looked as though the Burras’ dominance of the Bombers would continue.
It took until the 14th minute for Chris Wills to kick Buninyong’s first goal of the last quarter, before back-to-back majors from Jarrod Morgan and Adam Scott levelled the scores just two minutes later.
A couple of handy behinds edged the red and black in front, before a mark and goal to coach Joe Gilbert sealed the result shortly before the siren.
“The side has got to take belief and confidence from that, but we’ve got to learn that we can’t start like that in a final,” Gilbert said.
“I thought from half-time we started getting our hands on the footy a little bit more. In the first half we were outplayed. On top of the ground, they seemed to be everywhere.
“We thought before half time, in that last five or ten minutes, they started to stop a little bit. At half time we just tried to settle the minds and reminded them of what belief is inside the group.”
While Buninyong players and supporters carried on the celebrations long after full time, there was a deafening silence in the Hepburn rooms.
After all, the Burras had blown it.
Coach Shane Robertson said his side switched off when it thought the game was over.
“I just feel gutted. To be six or seven (goals) up and basically go to sleep, it was very similar to last week when we were 10 goals up (against Waubra),” Robertson said.
“Our feeling was the same –that we’d done enough to win the game. We put it in cruise control and underestimated Buninyong. They hadn’t been there before and hadn’t tasted it. They were always going to keep coming. Our blokes just didn’t respond and I thought we just had too many passengers on the day.”
Andy McKay was certainly not one of those Hepburn players that didn’t pull their weight.
The Geoff Taylor Medallist was again in devastating form, particularly in the first half when he terrorised Buninyong with some 20 possessions.
The likes of Dan and Liam O’Halloran tried hard around the ground, while Daniel Smith and Segifili Asa Leausa led the defensive division admirably.
For Buninyong, it was truly a team effort.
Skipper Morgan led from the front in the second half and became a real presence through the engine room, while Ned Gilbert was busy for much of the afternoon.
Michael McKenzie, who again had the job on Lee Cox, held his man to three goals and gave the Bombers plenty of drive off the back line, while tall Anthony Ebery and forward Jarrod Rodgers found plenty of the ball.
BUNINYONG 9.17 (71)HEPBURN 9.9 (63)