Buninyong set sail for a third senior grand final appearance in five years with an opening term fitting of a spot on the Central Highlands Football League’s biggest stage.
A scintillating seven-goal burst left Hepburn with its backs against the wall and trailing by 41 points at the first change.
And from there, there was always only going to be one result.
Despite a surge in the third term from the Burras, Buninyong never let its rivals within three kicks of the lead and then booted clear in the last quarter to secure a 38-point preliminary final triumph.
Saturday’s result at Learmonth booked a grand final berth – which will be against reigning premiers Springbank – and the chance to ease the pain of narrow defeats in both the 2012 and 2013 deciders.
Bombers joint-coach Jarrod Morgan was front and centre for those heartbreaking losses and can’t wait for another crack at the title that has eluded the club since 2002.
“You absorb the excitement and the enthusiasm that comes from the supporters and everything like that, but I made mention to the players out on the ground that it’s great making it (a grand final), but I think everyone – even the guys coming in from other clubs – have been through losing grand finals as well,” Morgan said.
“Enjoy it and lap it up now, but we haven’t done the job yet.”
With the Burras within 25 points at the last change, Jason Ferraro’s high hit on Glen Phelps and subsequent report and yellow card was another turning point in the game. Hepburn kicked a goal shortly after his dismissal, but then conceded four of the next five before the final siren ended its pain.
Bombers forward Mitch Phelps had the ball on a string early and kicked three of his five majors in a stunning opening 25 minutes, while prime movers Ned Gilbert and Matt Caris starred across four quarters. Young forward Joel Ottavi – who led up brilliantly and threatened more than his three goals suggested – was another of the best for the winners.
While there wasn’t many standouts for the Burras, McKay brothers Mitch, Brad and Andy combined for seven of the team’s 11 goals and tried hard all afternoon.
Unsurprisingly, Hepburn coach Jason Olver rued his side’s slow start.
“You can’t do that in finals footy, especially against quality sides,” Olver told The Courier.
“We still backed ourselves to get into it, but we were always plugging holes and it was always going to be a hard task against a side that’s only lost one game for the year.”
One of the key absentees for the Burras was top onballer Dan O’Halloran, who Olver said failed to recover from a groin strain picked up in the semi-final win over Bungaree six days before the match against Buninyong.
“He did everything he possibly could to get up, but in reality he was just no good. He couldn’t even really run. He would have struggled for next week (grand final) as well,” he said.
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