YARRAWONGA inflicted another dose of grand final heartache on its one-time tormenters Albury to yesterday clinch back-to-back Ovens and Murray football league premierships for the first time in the club’s history.
Deep scars from three successive grand final losses to the Tigers from 2009-11 are starting to heal after the Pigeons won the latest instalment in what is fast becoming the competition’s greatest rivalry.
Yarrawonga erased a seven-point half-time deficit to unleash a dominant second-half performance to win by 36 points at Lavington Oval.
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Another bumper crowd of 10,932 people, which was slightly down on last year’s record of 12,068, proved the public had not become fatigued from five successive grand final showdowns between the same two clubs.
Gate-takings of $85,542 were also slightly under last season’s record.
The Pigeons’ flag was the club’s fifth overall and third since 2006 in a truly golden era.
Yarrawonga’s bid for a fifth successive A-grade netball premiership ended at the hands of Lavington 40-36.
The Pigeons stopped Albury emulating Wodonga’s feat of a clean sweep of football premierships in 1981, 1987 and 2004 after the Tigers won the reserves and under-18s yesterday.
Pigeons co-coach Chris Kennedy paid tribute to Albury in his post-match acceptance speech.
“You are a fantastic, strong footy club and the rivalry is there,” he said.
“We got over the line today, but I expect you to be up against us in years to come.
“We are a strong group with the support of the people behind us and our big supporter base.
“I am just so rapt for the group of players.”
Kennedy also acknowledged the support of key sponsors Alan and Matthew Tripp and club president Glenn Brear, who was again close to tears after the match.
“It has been a just reward for a great year,” he said.
“We deserved what we got here today.”
Kennedy’s coaching partner, Drew Barnes, claimed the Did Simpson Medal for the best player on the ground with three inspiring long-range goals.
The most crucial came at the start of the third quarter when the Pigeons quickly reeled in Albury.
The only blot on his game was conceding the club’s first 50-metre penalty since the round 15 loss against Lavington.
The Tigers’ tactic of double-teaming Brendan Fevola paid dividends in the first half, but he became a factor in the third quarter when he booted two of his four goals for the match.
Spurred into action by a text from his wife Alex at half-time, Fevola produced an unforgettable goal from the Hartley Stand pocket which revived memories of the one kicked by teammate Craig Ednie late in the 2010 grand final from the same spot.
Ednie became a three-time premiership player for the Pigeons, along with Morris medallist Xavier Leslie, Marcus McMillan and Tyler Bonat.
Ednie’s younger brother Luke began the season playing in Cairns, but broke into the senior side late and claimed his first senior premiership medallion, as did Marcus Cummins.
Cummins played his first senior game in round 17 and was dropped a week later before returning for the qualifying final.
Pigeons ruckman Steve McKee is finally an O and M premiership player after playing for Myrtleford in the 2006 grand final against the Pigeons and missing last year.
The Tigers ultimately paid the price for their get out of jail win against Lavington in the preliminary final which exacted a huge physical toll.
They kicked just one goal in the second half and became the first team since Myrtleford in 2001 not to score in the last quarter.
Luke Packer was the Tigers’ best player and Andy Carey threatened to inflict more pain on the Pigeons with three first half goals.
The Tigers’ squad will need an injection of talent to remain a premiership contender next season.
Veteran Matt Fowler is destined for retirement after being unable to break back into the seniors for the grand final.
He played in the reserves premiership team that beat Lavington.
The senior match was delayed 15 minutes after hold-ups earlier in the day but the crowd was treated to the talents of X-Factor star Andrew Wishart and the parade of champions featuring the recently retired St Kilda player Justin Koschitzke, Jack Ziebell and Daniel Cross.
The B-grade netball premiership was won by North Albury while Albury beat Lavington in the C-grade decider and the Panthers won the 16 and under flag.