South Gambier is the undisputed premiership elect of the 2021 Bendigo Bank Western Border Football League season after it overcame East Gambier in the huge top-of-the-table clash at McDonald Park on Saturday.
After a lighting start to the season, the last two weeks were the biggest test for Brayden Kain’s men coming up against the reigning premier on Anzac Day and a previously undefeated Bulldogs outfit in home conditions. However, the Demons cleared those obstacles in flying colours and stopping the buoyant team appears to be an almighty task.
With the club also hosting Ladies Day at McDonald Park and players running entering with a striking pink slash, East held high hopes match its on-field performance with the off-field spectacle, but the visitors spoiled the part straight away.
After less than three minutes of play, Colby Munro’s electric left foot sent South to the lead. That goal was just a warning of what was to come as the Demons sent a strong message. After the quarter time siren, the scoreboard read South five goals, four, 34 to East nil.
Although the result was almost inevitable, but the Bulldogs refused to give in and amplified the fight for possession. After 26 long minutes, the home side finally delighted the crowd when Johnny Cooper and Tully Balshaw combined to put East on the board.
Despite the hosts crawling back into the physical contest, the Demons remained on top and kept their lead intact. The likes of Munro, Jack Tentye and Scott Enderl kept pounding the goals to each collect hat-tricks, while Brett O’Neil and Dion Stratford stood tall down back.
Stratford’s work shutting down the prolific Todd Lockwood stood out, while the work rate of Heywood recruit Dane Hendrick provided the visitors the perfect avenue through half forward to cover the absence of Brodie Foster.
The lead grew to 51 points before the three-quarter time siren, but East managed to steady proceedings in the closing stages with the help of Jayden Eldridge and Nick Lock, who remained composed under constant fire.
Although the Bulldogs slightly won the last term, nothing could hide the permanent class of the Demons. In what was anticipated to be a finals dress rehearsal, South showed why it is the team to beat with a 51-point victory.
Despite recording another solid triumph, Demons’ coach Kain said gaining the ladder lead was much harder than the scoreboard suggests after big bodies were thrown all over the ground. “East was going to be a big challenge and it did not feel like we got away with a win as big as we did,” he said. “It certainly had a finals feel out there because both teams were very intense.
“We were not allowed to get as much outside run and clean possession, so that made it a bit of a scrappy, ugly day. “We always felt with the scoreboard we were in control, but we also knew East was going to keep throwing themselves at us.
“There were periods in that second quarter where they regained momentum with a couple of quick goals, but it was great we could balance things out and maintain possession, so we never allowed them to gain control.”
Unfortunately, the byproduct of the physical encounter was injuries. East playing coach Matt Willson was a huge loss early on and South also suffered some big losses with Foster being stretchered off and likely to miss a few weeks, while Bronson Saffin and Sam Casey also went down.
The Demons will be confident of continuing their perfect record after a road trip to Casterton this weekend, while the Bulldogs will celebrate Shem Balshaw’s 200th game at the “Kennel” hosting Millicent.