IT is not often a match in April feels like a final, but that was the case in Yarram on Friday as people came from all over Gippsland to watch the opening match of the North Gippsland Football-Netball League season.
Given the more than 18 month lay-off since the final game of local senior football and netball, a near 1000-strong crowd converged on Yarram Recreation Reserve to see the Demons take on league newcomer Yallourn-Yallourn North in a Good Friday marquee game.
Just how much local sport had been missed was evidenced by the staggering returns on the gate, canteen and bar, which collectively cleared $8000.
It was a carnival-like atmosphere before the senior twilight match, with families and friends setting up picnic rugs along the boundary edge as music blared from speakers.
Heading into the match, most pundits tipped a Yarram victory, as the Demons had played in the previous three North Gippsland grand finals - a league generally considered stronger than Mid Gippsland - where YYN had come from.
As the first quarter got underway things appeared to be going to script, as the Demons continually sent the ball inside 50. The Bombers' defence was under siege early, but it was a different story up the other end of the ground, as YYN made the most of its opportunities inside attacking 50.
For all of Yarram's dominance in the first term, the Demons could only muster two goals from nine scoring shots, whereas YYN,
which only had around half a dozen inside 50s for the term, kicked five straight goals. Yarram again looked the better team in the second quarter, as Griffin Underwood racked up touches across half-back and Boadie Motton provided the highlight of the half with a hanger next to the club rooms.
The Bombers however sensed the game well, and players such as Mannon Johnston, Jai Massese and Campbell MacInnes used their football smarts to apply the handbrake when necessary by way of deft kicks to find short targets around the ground.
At half-time, YYN led by six points.
Whatever Bombers coach Barrie Burnett said at the main change worked, as YYN came out and slammed on seven goals to two in the third quarter to take a 37-point lead heading into the final term.
By midway through the third quarter it felt as if every time YYN went inside 50 it would score a goal, and with every goal it was clear the body language and confidence of all wearing the red and black lifted.
The Demons appeared shell-shocked in their three-quarter-time huddle, as players stood blankly searching for answers to their predicament.
The Demons were able to add five goals in the fourth quarter, but it mattered little as YYN kicked the same amount to win 19.8 (122) to 12.12 (84).
Dean MacDonald finished with eight goals for the victors, including one from 40 metres out following a ridiculous one-handed pick up, gather and snap.
Best-on-ground Mitchell Luck had countless score involvements and took a number of strong overhead marks throughout the day. Others to perform well were Massese, MacInnes, Kyle Jennings and Callum Robertson.
The first round of the North Gippsland football season concludes on Saturday.
Heyfield will host Cowwarr, Sale City will travel to Gormandale, Rosedale will host Traralgon-Tyers United, and Glengarry will head to Woodside. Reigning premier Churchill has the bye.