Myrtleford and Lavington will clash in what’s a bumper round of Ovens and Murray action this weekend.
There’s a bit of history between the two sides with the Saints’ one-point loss to the Panthers in 2005 forever being the one that got away.
Myrtleford had it in the bag before a dagger in the final seconds brought them to their knees.
Video | The final goal:
Relive The Border Mail’s David Johnston’s wrap-up of the memorable final.
LAVINGTON 2.6 6.8 9.10 10.12 (72)
MYRTLEFORD 0.1 5.2 9.3 11.5 (71)
The fairytale was complete.
The final siren sounds, Myrtleford’s in front and the premiership cup is in the Saints’ hands for the first time since 1970 after they finished last season as wooden-spooners.
That was until Lavington skipper Darryn McKimmie decided to rewrite the script and celebrate his 200th match in the grandest of style with a goal after the siren to hand the Panthers a thrilling one-point grand final victory at LPO yesterday.
The man they call “Skillsy” calmly slotted the ball through from 35m out on a 45-degree angle after a piece of Kade Stevens brilliance in defence kept the Panthers alive just when it seemed the Saints were destined to break their premiership drought.
Myrtleford hit the front for the first time 15 minutes into the final quarter when Brad McPherson kicked truly from long range and it appeared the Saints had all the momentum after going into three quarter-time seven points down.
But with the Panthers trailing by five points and less than a minute remaining, Stevens outpointed three Myrtleford opponents inside the Saints’ forward 50m-arc as Lavington mustered one last challenge.
Did Simpson medallist Corey Brown then put the ball on the chest of McKimmie and the rest, as they say, is history.
Lavington made all the early running as it set about establishing a 17-point lead at the first change into the breeze while keeping the Saints to a solitary behind in the opening term.
The Panthers’ lead probably should have been greater given their dominance around the ground but inaccuracy in front of goal hurt them.
Ruckman Peter Doherty was giving Panthers on-ballers Corey and Todd Brown, Luke Carroll, John Hunt and Stevens first use of the ball as Brad Murray and Andrew Carey failed to make a significant impact.
Murray, who played after having a one-match suspension overturned by the VCFL in Melbourne last week, didn’t have his first kick until late in the opening term while Carey appeared to struggle with his thumb injury.
But the Saints started the second quarter strongly when Craig Millar, who was successfully negated by Brandon Mathews, kicked his first of three goals for the day.
Brett Sanson then goaled for the Panthers to reopen a 17-point buffer as the Saints worked desperately to stay in the contest through wingman Ben Jones, who was their best player yesterday, and Shane Peters.
Big man Adam Mathews booted two goals for the quarter for Lavington as the Panthers went into half-time 12 points up despite Myrtleford’s hard work.
Matt Cavedon and Rhys Fitzpatrick saw the Saints draw level with goals inside the first two minutes of the third quarter before Paul Sanson and Adam Mathews got the Panthers’ lead back out to 14 points.
Two brilliant goals from Chad Rigoni in space of a minute again got the Saints to within a kick before Todd Brown snapped truly just before the three-quarter-time siren to get the break back out to seven points.
If the Saints were to have any chance of overrunning the Panthers, they needed the first goal of the final term and Millar accommodated them with a clever mark and goal six minutes into the quarter.
McPherson then put them in front for the first time when he goaled and the classy left-footer had the chance to extend the break when he missed from a tight angle two minutes later.
The Saints will be left to rue what might have been as they fell agonisingly short of what would have been a fairytale win.
Some will say it’s cruel.
But given Lavington was the better side for most of the day, it would have been as cruel had the Panthers lost.
By his own admission Lavington captain Darryn McKimmie was having a “very ordinary day” in the grand final.
After an injury interrupted season, McKimmie’s switch into the Panthers’ midfield after the qualifying final loss to Wangaratta was one of the catalysts behind the team’s form reversal in the past two weeks.
McKimmie couldn’t exert the same influence in the grand final which coincided with his 200th match for the Panthers and had a couple of stints on the pine but was still able to etch a permanent place in Ovens and Murray league grand final folklore.
McKimmie came back on to the ground in a forward pocket late in the game and proceeded to kick the most important goal of his career to deliver Lavington its fourth and most thrilling premiership victory.
The Panthers skipper said he was unaware the final siren had sounded when he moved into put his team one-point in front.
“I didn’t hear the siren, I heard it afterwards, but I didn’t hear it as I was kicking,” McKimmie said.
“I’m numb and you can’t explain it.”
McKimmie described his game as “very ordinary”.
“I’ve got no excuses, but what a team effort,” he said.
“The boys were unbelievable and we got there.
“The celebrations are going to go from a long time I can tell you.
“This is special.”
McKimmie’s set shot from 35m out was reminiscent of the goal knee victim Luke Schilg booted at the same ground in round three to kick-start the Panthers season.
Graham Hart, who played alongside McKimmie in the 2001 win against Myrtleford and brought the curtain down on his O and M career with a second premiership medallion, said he couldn’t think of a better man to have the pressure kick.
“It’s unbelievable isn’t it?” Hart said.
“We always knew he was a legend before today, but that was just magnificent.
“I couldn’t think of any better way to finish up at a place which has been such a big part of my life.
“How can I thank that bunch of blokes enough?”
Hart joined the Panthers in the mid-1990s and suffered grand final heartache in 1996 and 1998 against Albury and Wodonga Raiders respectively and has also recovered from a knee reconstruction.
He will leave the Panthers and launch a coaching career next season with speculation rife he will join Osborne.
“The club has probably been a third of my life,” Hart said.
Hart had his hands full with Saints key forward Matt Cavedon at various stages of the grand final as team-mate Brandon Mathews took the points against Saints star Craig Millar.
Brandon was joined at Lavington this season by his cousin Adam Mathews this season and he threatened to create havoc for the Saints early in the match opposed to Brent Piltz.
“What can you say?” Brandon Mathews said.
“For ‘Skills’ to kick the winning goal in his 200th proves fairytales do get written I suppose.”
The Best Player
Corey Brown returned heartbroken to his original club Lavington last season.
Brown had won the Murray Bushrangers best and fairest in 2002 and was being touted as a genuine draft prospect.
The talented mid-fielder’s number didn’t come up on draft day and at subsequent last chance entries into the AFL.
Brown then spent a season plugging away at VFL level and his confidence levels were being eroded with every stint on the bench as AFL listed players at Coburg were given greater opportunities.
Brown started the 2004 season at West Preston in the Diamond Valley league but was convinced to return to the Panthers to play alongside older brother Todd.
Yesterday, by his own admission, he reached his career zenith when he was awarded the Did Simpson Medal for the best player on the ground in Lavington’s thrilling one-point over Myrtleford in the grand final.
“I am absolutely thrilled,” Brown said. “It’s the best feeling I’ve had in footy.
“But I must admit I was getting a bit worried to tell you the truth.
“We looked gone didn’t we?
“But we dug deep and we’ve been doing it all year and we were quietly confident going in.
“It means a lot to me and a lot to the club.
“We stuck through thick and thin because we were down and out after the qualifying final.”
Brown went to head-to-head in the cente with Myrtleford captain Brad Murray, who earned a late reprieve when the VCFL appeal board overturned his one-match suspension, in the centre and took the points with 21 kicks and seven handballs.
Brown and Luke Carroll were the catalysts for Lavington’s early ascendancy in the midfield but the Panthers couldn’t translate their dominance on the scoreboard.
“Whatever has come his way today is richly deserved,” Panthers coach Tim Sanson said.
“He came back with his spirit crushed and his confidence shot, but he has got better and better for us and has really turned it on in the last few weeks when we were under the pump.”
Myrtleford coach Travis Hodgson thought he had experienced the full spectrum of emotions on grand final day.
In his O and M career alone, Hodgson has savoured two premierships victories at North Albury and two defeats on grand final day with the biggest downer being the record 108-point mauling the Hoppers received from Corowa-Rutherglen in 2000 when his opponent Damian Houlihan cut loose to kick 10 goals.
But a one-point loss following a goal after the siren to Lavington captain Darryn McKimmie had the first-year Saints coach in reassessing.
Hodgson conceded he thought the Saints had one hand on the premiership cup and a 35-year premiership drought at Myrtleford was broken.
“It certainly felt that way,” Hodgson said.
“I’ve lost grand finals before but never one like that when you look at the clock and there are only seconds to go.
“But it happens, I guess.”
The Saints trailed throughout until Brad McPherson put them in front at the 15-minute mark of the last term.
McPherson had another shot from 40m out moments later, but missed and a rushed behind later and the Saints’ biggest lead for the day reached seven points.
The Saints had the dual benefit of momentum and massive crowd support, but the Panthers found a way to drive a dagger into their hearts and prevent the success-starved club rising from wooden-spoon to premier in the space of 12 months.
“Once we hit the front I thought we were going to be pretty tough to beat and especially when it got to seven points at one stage,” Hodgson said.
“But Lavi being the side they are just persisted and persisted.
“It’s no consolation, but our guys were great in stoppage after stoppage.
“We really worked hard to make sure they didn’t score.”
Ben Jones, the Saints best player, Rhys Fitzpatrick and Stephen Nightingale helped reignite the team after a sluggish start to the match as key playmakers including captain Brad Murray and Andrew Carey were struggling to contain their direct opponents Corey Brown and Luke Carroll and exert influence on the match.
“Our emphasis was first hands on the footy and I thought Lavington beat us in that area in the first quarter,” Hodgson said. “Soon as we don’t get first hands on the footy everything changes.
“Nothing you say helps ease the pain.
“But I touched on the fact it’s been a positive year not only in the fact we made the grand final, but the development in the group.
“We will come back stronger next year.
“It’s a fair old kick in the guts and it’s something we will use as motivation for the entirety of next season.”