Fitzroy Stars and North Heidelberg played out the first draw of the 2017 A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 season.
The highly-anticipated Round 8 match-up lived up to expectations, with the often physical, always enthralling battle at Sir Douglas Nicholls Oval producing 37 goals.
The Bulldogs held a lead throughout the majority of the game and even blew the margin out to 30 points at the midway stage of the third term.
But an incredible comeback from the home side saw them kick 10 of the last 15 goals to ensure the scores were tied 18.14 (122) to 19.8 (122) at the final siren.
Despite playing catch-up footy for much of the day, the Stars will feel disappointed not to have come away with the four points after conceding the final two goals of the engrossing match.
Richard Bamblett looked to have sealed the game for the Stars after his goal extended the home side’s rare lead to 12 points with just minutes remaining. But the Bulldogs refused to go away and kicked the remaining two goals via Blair and Shane Harvey.
The Stars were the last team to have a chance at snatching the lead, with the ball locked deep in their forward line in the dying seconds. But their efforts to try to force a behind failed as the siren sounded.
The home side had five multiple goal kickers and possessed plenty of firepower in the front half. Vaasili Tuifao (five goals) and John Hayes (four) both enjoyed solid games, while Kain Proctor, Max Maynard and Clinton Edwards also impressed.
In his return from an injury layoff, it was Shane Harvey’s eight goals which proved crucial in the match and he always looked a class above for the Bulldogs.
Brent Harvey and Brody Tardio’s speed on the outside was also dangerous for the visitors, while Mitch Dillon was imposing swinging from attack to defence.
Much of the pre-match interest focused on Brent Harvey, who missed the pair’s earlier clash this season in which the Stars claimed a 41-point win – the result the Bulldogs’ only loss for the year.
The AFL games record holder got his side off to a flyer, bursting clear from the first bounce to put through the first goal of the game in the opening seconds. Despite producing a strong showing, Harvey was well held in patches by Kain Proctor.
Liam McLeod and Dillon also kicked truly as the Dogs jumped out to a three-goal advantage, but the momentum couldn’t be sustained as the Stars bounced back with five of the next six goals to claim a 10-point lead at quarter-time, with Peter Hood’s foot skills a stand out.
North Heidelberg established its superiority during the second quarter, kicking five of the last six goals of the term to take a 12-point lead into half-time. The Stars only had themselves to blame after continuously missing shots on goal – kicking 2.7 for the term.
The Bulldogs’ buffer continued to extend early in the third quarter with a clear gap emerging between the two sides.
But the never-say-die Stars mounted their fightback, with Tuifao and Hayes kicking the last three goals to shrink the deficit from 30 points to 12 at three quarter-time, setting up the breathtaking finale.
The Stars kicked seven of the first 10 goals of the last quarter, with Hayes’ third putting his side in front for the first time since early in the second term.
The home side got as much as 16 points ahead in an extraordinary turn of events, but were unable to maintain the lead, with Shane Harvey’s eighth goal ensuring the two sides shared the points in a classic.
Final score: Fitzroy Stars 18.14 (122) drew with North Heidelberg 19.8 (122)