A commanding final quarter performance ensured Diamond Creek overhauled North Heidelberg to win its first Division 2 reserves premiership since 2013.
The 8.11 (59) to 6.9 (45) grand final win at Preston City Oval was underlined by the Demons’ steely resolve.
For the second week in a row, they were force to come back from a deficit – albeit not as significant as the 51-point deficit they were faced with in the preliminary final against Thomastown.
The Demons were able to respond to the challenge, earning their premiership with a three-goal to nil final quarter.
It was the Bulldogs that got off to a strong start, however. After having to work their way back from a 24-point three-quarter-time deficit themselves in the second semi-final, they were up for the contest early and kicked the first three goals.
Matthew Mahony was in everything early, recording many crucial possessions which would eventually turn into score involvements. His most significant was one which helped set up Jamie Wright, who converted from 45 metres out.
Liam McLeod – who kicked a well-measured set-shot goal from the boundary line – and Shaun Chaseling also scored early goals to give the Bulldogs a 21-point lead at the first change.
However, it would eventually become clear that the Preston Market end would be scoring end, with Diamond Creek starting to get on top during the second quarter.
Josh Wuelfert looked dangerous every time the ball came his way, with his height and agility proving to be a problem for the North Heidelberg defensive unit. He kicked two goals to help propel the Demons into the game, with Chris Libertino also getting on the scoreboard.
Suddenly, the tide was turning. Josh Smith was winning plenty of the football, with Aaron De Giorgio and Andrew Gray, who later sustained a hand injury, also getting involved throughout the first half.
When Cameron Rooney caught Jack Prosser high, Diamond Creek was able to hit the front for the first time for the day and took a seven-point advantage into half time.
North Heidelberg got off to the best possible start in the third quarter, kicking the opening goal of the quarter through Mahony.
However, Diamond Creek kicked what proved to be one of the most important goals of the day – the only one kicked to the city end – through De Giorgio.
North Heidelberg, as a result, desperately needed to get a run-on, which it did with the next two goals. Firstly, Chaseling kicked his second, before Dominic Saccuzzo put the Bulldogs back in front from a free kick.
With the Bulldogs holding a seven-point lead at three-quarter-time, the game was in the balance.
Diamond Creek coach Brenton Hoppe lauded his charges’ third quarter, declaring it one of their best for the year, given the circumstances, while North Heidelberg coach Nathan Booker urging his side to continue to outwork its opposition.
The Demons were able to rise to the occasion, as they looked to push hard for quick goals. They were able to kick the first goal of the quarter after a number of lucky bounces inside 50 saw the ball fall into the lap of Todd Owen, who ran into an open goal.
Although they missed their next opportunity, Josh Barnes then intercepted the kick-in to help give the Demons a lead they would not relinquish – further undermined by Wuelfert’s third goal which sealed the premiership.
Smith was awarded the best on ground medal, but had plenty of help. Gray courageously returned in the last quarter despite clearly favouring his injured hand, while Liam Padget, Matthew Smith and De Giorgio also had big contributions.
For North Heidelberg, the loss came with a silver lining, as their senior premiership allowed them to progress to Division 1 next season. Mahony, Josh Doherty, Ryan Storey and Luke Villanti were their better performers.
Final score: North Heidelberg 6.9 (45) def by Diamond Creek 8.11 (59)