DAYLESFORD’S six-year period of dominance was rewarded with a third premiership flag on Saturday.
The Bulldogs, champions in 2007 and 2009, rose to the top of the Central Highlands Football League once again with a hard-fought nine-point win over Buninyong at Eureka Stadium.
Andrew Button led the club to his first premiership as coach and said it was a special feeling after grand final defeats in the past two years.
“You always doubt yourself. I know I’ve played a lot of footy, but coaching is a different kettle of fish altogether,” Button said.
“To get a result like that vindicates a little bit of stuff, I suppose. They have pulled together and done everything I’ve asked them to do. The sacrifices they have made, they have deserved what they’ve got and that’s the enjoyable part for me.”
Daylesford played the better football all day, and just seemed to have a class edge on the Bombers right from the start.
The lead traded hands a number of times during a frantic opening term, and in the end, the Bulldogs’ three-point quarter-time advantage was one that would never be headed.
Daylesford edged further clear in the second term, but a strong third quarter, where it kicked four goals to two, proved crucial.
However, the Bulldogs knew their 22-point lead at the final change would be challenged. After all, Buninyong had come from a similar position to beat Hepburn in a dramatic preliminary final just a week earlier.
And with four of the first five goals in the last term, the red and black army sensed a repeat of that famous performance.
Buninyong had worked to within four points of the Dogs, but a dubious yellow card to late call-up Daniel Gunn halted its momentum.
Gunn was sent from the field, leaving the Bombers with just 17 men for the last seven minutes of the match.
Soon after, Daylesford’s tall Toby Hughes won a free kick and kicked a clutch goal to give the Bulldogs some breathing space.
With the clock ticking down, Buninyong pressed and was rewarded when Glen Phelps marked inside forward 50m. But as Phelps was taking aim, the siren sounded and dashed the Bombers’ hopes of a come-from-behind victory.
For the premiers, key defender Nathan Gudgeon was simply superb. He foiled countless Bombers attacks and was a worthy winner of the best on ground medal. But no less important was the contribution of midfielder Michael Cummings. He collected plenty of the ball and worked well under the tap work of veteran ruckman Scott Winduss.
Around the ground, Luke Adams, Trent Nesbitt, Xavier Keighran and Rob Rodgers were busy. Forward trio Sebastian Walsh, Max Risstrom and Button booted five goals between them, while captain James Evans was important down back.
Ned Gilbert led Buninyong in a strong display across four quarters, while Phelps finished with a match-high four majors as he threatened to take the game away from the Bulldogs at vital stages.
Tough defender Michael McKenzie was good, Jarrod Rodgers and Tom Porter were hard to contain in attack and Jimmy Carroll and Sam Turner tried hard.
Buninyong coach Joe Gilbert said the playing group had taken the defeat hard, but revealed a gesture, headed by player Kenny Terry, that showed the quality of character within the side.
Gilbert said Terry took the team into the euphoric Daylesford rooms after the match to shake hands with the premiership winners.
“I’ve never heard of that happening,” Gilbert said.
“It’s just the kind of group we’ve got. They’ll galvanise from this and whatever the result is going forward they will get bigger and better.
“The group is staying together.”