Ballarat Football League finished on top against arch rival Bendigo Football League in a thrilling AFL Victoria WorkSafe Country Championships game.
Both sides put on a show and the final result wasn’t sealed until the final minutes.
Ballarat conceded the lead early in the last quarter, when Bendigo kicked three quick goals. but fought back with four of the last five goals sealing a 16.9 (105)-14.10 (94) victory and bragging rights.
Ballarat was in front for much of the game, but coach Shaun O’Loughlin said it was never comfortable.
“It was a great game and [a] really exciting game for those watching,” he said.
“We kept a three-goal buffer for much of the match, but couldn’t break it open.
“When they hit the front in the last quarter, we had to fight back to get back in front.
“We got a couple of late goals to get back in front. We stood up well in some big contests and finished really well.
“We happened to be the side in front at the end.”
Darley’s Brian Graham was awarded the best on ground medal for Ballarat. Bacchus Marsh’s Scott Sherlock was dangerous, as was Nathan Horbury and Christopher Giampaolo.
Nathan Pring kicked four goals for Ballarat, in what O’Loughlin said was an even team performance.
For Bendigo, Matt Thornton kicked four goals and Andrew Collins was named best on ground.
The win means Ballarat will move up from ninth to eighth in state rankings. Bendigo slips to 11th.
It’s O’Loughlin’s first win as interleague coach, he was in charge last season when the league lost a thriller to the Western Region Football League.
“It was a bit disappointing last year,” he said.
“We put in a really good effort, but couldn’t get the win.
“It’s good for the league to showcase itself on a bigger stage. The BFL is becoming stronger and it’s such an even competition.”
He said the decision to name a final squad early on, instead of a big initial squad, would be something they would consider continuing.
“We found last year we spent the first few training sessions looking at which players we were going to cut.
“We decided it would be better to have some really good quality training sessions right from the start. The players really appreciated knowing that they were in the team from the start. It might be a good recipe going forward.”
It was the only win of the day for Ballarat, Bendigo won the under-18 football, under-17 netball and senior netball.