LAVINGTON buried the demons of a decade of finals heartbreak on Sunday by ambushing Wangaratta to claim its first Ovens and Murray Football League premiership since its most famous flag in 2005.
A string of near misses in preliminary finals and back-to-back grand final losses to modern day powerhouse Albury in 2015-16 had almost shut the premiership window on the Panthers.
But for the second year in a row on its homeground, the Magpies paid the price for a pitiful opening quarter performance.
The Panthers made a stunning start to lead by 41 points at the first change and never really let Wangaratta back in the match to eventually run out winners by 34 points.
The second successive grand final played at the Norm Minns Oval pulled a bigger crowd and larger gate-takings than last year.
An official crowd of 8112 was almost 1000 more than last year and gate-takings of $64,637 eclipsed the $57,783 figure of 12 months ago.
For the second year in a row the Wangaratta A grade netball team ensured the host club didn't go empty-handed with a dramatic 48-45 win over pre-match favourites Corowa-Rutherglen, which was searching for its first flag.
Centre player Issy Byrne and goal-shooter Amanda Umanski led the Magpies to victory with the Roos chances dealt a crushing blow when back-to-back Toni Wilson medallist Sophie Hanrahan injured her ankle in the second quarter which forced her off the court.
She returned in the third term when the Roos made a charge at the Magpies to close to within one goal before going off again.
Wangaratta's three goal lead at the last change was maintained at the final siren.
Premierships were shared about on grand final day with Myrtleford coming from more than five goals down to snatch a thrilling victory in the under-18s.
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The Saints win was made even more remarkable considering the club didn't field a team at thirds level last year and claimed their first flag at under-18 level since 1990 from the elimination final.
Old foes Yarrawonga and Albury met again on grand final day in the reserves with the Pigeons winning by 54 points over the previously undefeated Tigers.
Wangaratta Rovers won the 16 and under netball flag 38-36 over Wodonga Raiders, the Pigeons beat Corowa-Rutherglen in C grade 49-39 and Corowa-Rutherglen recovered from a seven-goal three quarter time deficit to win the B grade flag 56-52.
Lavington finished minor premiers in coach Simon Curtis' second-year at the helm, but found itself under the pump dealing with the wash-up from the second-semi final loss to the Magpies.
Curtis was cleared to play in the grand final three days beforehand when he had a one-match suspension overturned on appeal after being cited by the Magpies for two incidents in the second semi-final.
He was part of a superb Panther backline alongside Brant Dickson, who quelled Magpie match-winner Mick Newton, first-year players Grange McMahon and Brad Carman and veteran Adam Butler, who played his first match at senior level since June.
He replaced another veteran John Hunt, who ruled himself out with a shoulder injury on Friday.
Butler played an important shutdown role on resting Magpie talls Dylan Van Berlo and Josh Porter and laid a bone crunching tackle on Harry Smart in the second quarter.
But Shaun Mannagh was the undisputed winner of the Did Simpson Medal for best-on-ground.
The Panther dynamo's second semi-final ended prematurely when he was collected high by Wangaratta ruckman Zac Leitch, who was suspended for two weeks for the high hit.
Mannagh ignited the Panthers early with three goals in the first term and put the result beyond with two more in the final term.
His goal early in the last term from the boundary ignited a large group of Lavington supporters.
Curtis touched on the challenges the Panthers have had to overcome this season which also included the recent death of Hugh Hargreave, the father of Tom and Sam, after accepting the premiership cup.
"We've had some really hard things happen this year," he said.
"But for the boys to able to re-group and just focus on footy and come out and deliver today is fantastic."
The victory was also particularly sweet for long-serving Panthers president Peter Barwick, who has been at the helm for the grand final and preliminary losses the club has endured.
The Panthers premiership team also boasted two 17-year-olds in Macca Hallows and Clayton Marsh with the latter denied a goal on the final siren.
Liam Ross joined his father Anthony as a Lavington premiership player in his first full season at senior level.
Captain Luke Garland's career started soon after the Panthers most recent premiership 14 years ago and finally tasted grand final success.
Sydney Swans coach John Longmire and Melbourne Vixens player Jacqui Newton returned to the O and M for the grand final to take part in the pre-match parade of champions.
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