North Heidelberg claimed the 2017 A Plus Solutions Division 2 premiership with a 77-point grand final victory over Diamond Creek.
The Bulldogs entered the game as strong favourites and didn’t disappoint, having 34 shots on goal in the 19.15 (129) to 7.10 (52) victory.
Jesse Tardio was voted best on ground for a dominant midfield display. It is the second time the 22-year-old has been awarded the best on ground medallion in a grand final, backing up his performance in the 2014 decider.
Mitch Dillon was unstoppable in attack. The former Montmorency man booted three goals in the opening term and ended the match with five majors. Shane Harvey also kicked five goals in the game to end the season with 115 majors.
After the game, dual premiership coach Steve Saddington said the victory was redemption for last year’s grand final defeat to Hurstbridge.
“It cut us really deep 12 months ago,” Saddington said. “Anything besides a premiership would have been a failure.”
In his post-game speech, Diamond Creek coach Craig Hayes lauded North Heidelberg for an incredible 2017 season but praised his young side for reaching the grand final.
Diamond Creek began to warm up for the match 10 minutes before North Heidelberg entered the arena in an attempt to quash any nerves. But the pre-game strategy failed to deliver, as Dillon booted the first two majors for North Heidelberg.
With all the focus on Shane Harvey and Leigh Gilbert in attack, Dillon was able to find space in the forward line. Louis Hill added a third for the Bulldogs before Dillon once again hit the scoreboard.
Shane Harvey booted his first major a minute later and after 19 minutes of play the Bulldogs had blown out to a 33-point lead.
Diamond Creek struggled to move the ball into attack and failed to enter its forward 50 during the Bulldogs onslaught. Tyler Barnes was doing his best in defence but even he had trouble stopping North Heidelberg.
It took just over 20 minutes for Diamond Creek to hit the scoreboard, courtesy of a goal from Brad Perry. Unfortunately for the Demons, North Heidelberg replied with goals from Jackson Jones and Kyle Green.
Things went from bad to worse for the Demons at the start of the second term as Perry and Chris Moloney were given yellow cards. Blair Harvey was awarded a free kick and goaled to extend the Bulldogs lead to 46 points.
Despite missing two key players for 15 minutes, Diamond Creek finally began to stamp its mark on the game. Led by Jedd McQueen, the Demons began to gain first use of the footy and regularly moved the ball into attack.
The result was three consecutive goals to Ryan Pingree, Kane Tenace and Tyler Barnes. The Demons had reduced the margin to 29 points and it appeared they might replicate their second quarter performance in the semi-final.
But just as it looked like the Demons were gaining the upper hand, Brent Harvey was able to kick his first goal. Harvey had been quite in the opening quarter and a half, but was able to assist in brother Shane kicking his second as North took a 44-point lead into half time
Rain began to bucket down in the third term, making the game more contested. Only three goals were kicked in the term and unfortunately for Diamond Creek all three were converted by North Heidelberg.
Things went from bad to worse for Diamond Creek as Josh Marchbank and Bryce Adams limped off the field with injures.
Adams returned and he and Pingree added to the Diamond Creek goal tally in the final term, but the quarter belonged to North Heidelberg
The Harvey boys added to their tally and Dillon notched up his fifth goal, but the biggest cheer went to former captain Leigh Gilbert, who capped off a brilliant performance with a goal.
As the siren sounded, North Heidelberg claimed its eighth senior premiership. It took 12 months for the Bulldogs to seek redemption but the wait was worthwhile.
Final score: North Heidelberg 19.15 (129) def Diamond Creek 7.10 (52)