An unlikely victory almost occurred in the Football-Netball East Gippsland senior football Grand Final at the weekend.

Boisdale-Briagolong succumbed to Wy Yung by a mere eight points, 6.11 (47) to 5.9 (39) at Bairnsdale City Oval.

Going into the game with the underdog tag, there was a slight confidence in the air for the Bombers. Having defeated Wy Yung once already this year and come close in the other home-and-away encounter, the Bombers knew what they had to do to get the job done and break a 22-year premiership drought.

Boisdale-Briagolong playing-coach Sam Bedggood surprised a few early on, starting Tom ‘Junior’ Bradshaw in the ruck.

“We wanted to have extra midfielder in there and try to take advantage of them in that area,” he explained.

A risky move that almost paid dividends, as the Bombers were able to shut down the run of the young Wy Yung side early on.

It started off hopeful for the Bombers, as Caleb Calwyn repeated what he had done most of the year, with a strong overhead mark and a good kick to get the first goal of the game.

From there, Wy Yung managed to keep the ball in their forward half for the majority of the first quarter. The Tigers, however, struggled to put scoreboard pressure on as their inside 50 entries left a lot to be desired.

Brodie Cameron, a noted goal-kicker for the Tigers, electing to pass laterally with a 20 metre kick rather than have a shot from inside 50 himself, was an example of some poor decision-making from the Wy Yung forwards.

The Bombers’ defensive unit capitalised on this and was holding up strong.

Caleb Calwyn kicks for goal. Photos: Zoe Askew

It was jittery football from both sides, with a number of turnovers from running over the ball, missed marks, and players unable to keep their feet. Perceived pressure from playing in a Grand Final.

Boisdale-Briagolong captain Jim Reeves made sure the umpire saw a high tackle applied to him, capitalising on a 50 metre penalty as his helmet was ripped off and thrown away by a Wy Yung player in a minor scuffle following the tackle. Reeves made full use of the opportunity, slotting the second for the Bombers.

Boisdale-Briagolong seemed to have settled first and led with the wind in the first quarter 2.3 (15) to 1.2 (8).

Coming into the second quarter, it was clear the Bombers had a plan for league best-and-fairest Marcus Hottes, as he was unable to make much of an impact.

Bedggood noted they had a plan to apply a close tag to him for the majority of the game through Daniel Johnson and Matt Simmonds.

Boisdale-Briagolong’s forward looked dangerous against the wind but was unable to have any score impact as Cameron was able to get the first for the quarter with what was Wy Yung’s first genuine forward entry for the game.

Wy Yung had swung momentum and looked to capitalise, and there was a feeling that if they got a small run they could cause some serious damage.

A free kick in the square gifted Bayden Ashwood a goal and Wy Yung the lead for the first time in the match, a lead they’d hold onto.

Reeves, the Bombers most likely forward option, was caught too high up the ground on multiple occasions to be able to impact the scoreboard.

Billy Marshall received some accidental head-high contact, coming from the ground with blood streaming from his nose just before the end of the half.

At halftime, Wy Yung was in front 3.4 (22) to 2.5 (17).

Bombers captain Jimmy Reeves during the Grand Final.

The third term started in a congested pressure situation, with Ashwood’s goal of the day effort as he snapped over his shoulder as he was swung around from a Bedggood tackle.

An undisciplined 50 metre penalty from the centre square gave the Tigers another chance shortly after, but they were unable to convert.

There was danger that Boisdale-Briagolong would succumb to the niggles and lose control, but to their credit, remained level-headed.

Boisdale-Briagolong reduced the margin through a 50 metre penalty for Brendan Rathnow, with the umpires heavy onto the back chat. But the reduced margin didn’t last long, as Wy Yung responded straight back.

Wy Yung lead 5.8 (38) to 3.8 (26) at three quarter time.

Bedggood was vocal at three quarter time, asking for one more effort from his playing group.

“Twenty-two years comes down to these last 25 minutes” a node to the last time the Bombers won a senior premiership.

Tactically, it was about maintaining structure and keeping pressure on the ball.

The Bombers responded, and there was a glimmer of hope as they kicked the first of the last to get within seven points.

Shaymus Wain during the Grand Final.

Wy Yung, using the switch deep inside their defensive 50, was unable to move it past the half forward line, giving the Bombers plenty of chances to score, however, they were unable to take them.

It was back-and-forth in the last, and when the final siren sounded, jubilation for the Tigers and for the Bombers, moments of what could have been.

This wasn’t the year for Boisdale-Briagolong, and maybe they needed to lose one in order to win one.

With a wooden spoon finish last year, the Bombers have now gotten so close to having both hands on the cup that you’d expect they’d want redemption next year, a drive and determination to end a 23-year drought.

It’s been a cracking season of football in East Gippsland this year, a real pleasure to watch.

Thanks for reading as we sign off for 2023; I’ll be back in 2024 with more.

Editor’s note

My thanks to Paul ‘Pickles’ Nichols for his contributions this season. His work has really helped improve the coverage of East Gippsland football in the Gippsland Times, something that was certainly lacking in previous years. This was simply due to not having someone available.