In front of a bumper home crowd, the Roos created history with their stunning come-from-behind victory against Strathmerton.By Shaun Connor
In true fairytale style, the Deni Rovers reserves won their third straight Picola and District Football League premiership on Saturday.
Playing in front of a monster home crowd of almost 7000 people at Memorial Park, the Roos scored an amazing come-from-behind victory that will long be remembered.
Down by 44 points midway through the second quarter, the minor premier turned the match on its head to kick eight unanswered goals through the second and third quarters.
‘‘We just couldn’t get our hands on the footy, it wasn’t like we were playing bad,’’ Roos coach Wally Bulmer said of the first quarter-and-a-half.
‘‘A few of the guys that had played in the two previous flags were struggling so we put a couple of young blokes in the middle and it paid off.
‘‘The young blokes just have something special that keeps them going, no matter what the score is.
‘‘Once we started to get a few goals back Strathmerton started to feel the pressure.
‘‘When we hit the front before three quarter-time I knew we wouldn’t lose.’’
Bulmer, who chose not to play and coached from the sidelines, said the feeling of winning a third flag was like nothing else.
‘‘To be only the third club to win three flags in a row, and to come back from 44 points down .
‘‘We had so many kids and so much talent my job was just to coach and make sure everything ran smoothly.’’
Although the first half was anything but smooth, it all turned out glorious for Bulmer and his charges, and the coach confirmed yesterday that he was retiring from the game.
Other fine servants bowing out on the best possible note are Brendan East, Andrew King, Tommy Auldist and Chris Maher.
Final score: Deni Rovers 12.8 (80) def. Strathmerton 10.4 (64).
Brimming with confidence after their most recent win against Deni, the Bulldogs stamped their authority on the match early.
League leading goal-kicker Timothy Cantrill nailed the opening goal, which was immaculately followed by two more from the bustling Mick Peters.
Despite Rovers ruckman Adam Bodey getting his hand to the footy first, the Roos struggled to score centre clearances and one more Strathy major saw the visitors leading by 25 points at quarter time, with Deni failing to kick a goal.
Those in the crowd hoping the Bulldogs’ flame might have gone out after a fast-paced opening term had their hopes dashed when the visitors delivered the first three goals of the second quarter.
Staring at a 44-point deficit and perhaps the end of what could have been a golden era, the Rovers refused to let go of their stranglehold on the competition.
The Roos’ first goal came half way through the second quarter, with another one soon after cutting the deficit to 31 points at half time.
Hundreds of locals swamped the Rovers players to listen to Bulmer’s half time address.
With the backing of such a supportive home crowd, coupled with the spirit that naturally manifests itself on grand final day, all of a sudden that five-goal deficit didn’t look out of hand anymore.
The Rovers didn’t take long to start their assault, with small forward Chris Maher getting the crowd on its feet early in the third term with a crafty snap around the body to cut the difference to 25 points.
Young pair Scott Cuffe and Ben Henson were providing the Roos with some gusto out of the middle and, as a result, their teammates started to win possession all over the field.
Cuffe snuck forward to snag his only goal of the match early in the third quarter and it was followed by a miracle soccer goal out of the square from Jake Mercer.
That put the Rovers two goals behind and in striking distance.
Three more goals for the quarter reversed the lead with Strathy only managing one behind for the term.
Desperate to claim their first reserves premiership since 2000, the Bulldogs gave it everything at the start of the last quarter to kick a goal and cut the score back to eight goals apiece.
But there was little they could do as Deni small forward Mark Rourke electrified the park with three last quarter goals.
A throwback to his former soccer days, Rourke pulled off a stunning soccer goal to put the Roos up by eight points, only for Strathy’s Peters to cut the difference to two points with a goal at the other end.
Two long-range, running goals from Rourke sealed the deal for the Rovers but it was veteran Liam Fleming who put the icing on the cake with Deni’s last goal before the siren.
Fleming finished with three goals for the match and was named best on ground.
‘‘Liam stood up and kicked crucial goals when we needed them. They had nobody to match up on him,’’ Bulmer said.
The coach also praised the efforts of ruckman Bodey, midfielders Cuffe and Henson, Dave Jarrott, and Tom Regan when he went down back in the second half.
Cantrill finished with five goals for Strathmerton with Ian Oliver and Daniel Shannon the best players.
‘‘It’s been a good ride,’’ Bulmer said.
‘‘There’s only six guys that have played in all three flags but about 50 have been part of it all.
‘‘There’s a lot of young kids still in this team and a fourth flag is something for a new coach to strive to.’
An armed bandit robbed a fast-food restaurant at knife-point yesterday morning.
It’s been a long journey for Tim Roadley but his dream of creating a multi-sport endurance event on the Murray River is now going to be a reality.
It was a big day for Jye McNeil on Sunday, not only celebrating his 19th birthday, but riding a double at the Tatura and Shepparton Racing Club’s meeting, including the big one, the Vraca and Varapodio Italian Plate (1600 m), on the Gerald Egan-trained Jetconi.
Echuca Football Club has signed Joel Magnabosco and Kane Morris for next season.
On Friday Rochester’s St Joseph’s Primary School opened a time capsule which was buried in the 1980s.
Waste collection in Campaspe Shire will change for two weeks during the festive season.
Valley Park Farms' egg production facility is expected to increase production and staff after a $100 000 Victorian Government grant.
Murchison’s Jane Spencer’s first exhibition It Just Dawned On Me will be on show in Shepparton in the first half of next year.
Lisa Milligan has started a new dog grooming business in Heathcote to help fund her Wild ABout Wildlife centre in Kilmore.
Alistair Davey will return to his roots to teach Cobram Primary children the joy of music.
Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley says plans are in the works on how to get natural gas to Deniliquin.
New Transport Accident Commission research has revealed why some young country drivers habitually take risks on regional roads.
State Member for Benalla Bill Sykes has thrown his support behind the government’s proposed new domestic animal ownership laws.
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