REIGNING Mid South East Football League premiers Mount Burr claimed its 19th A Grade premiership following a stirring come-from-behind victory against Hatherleigh.
Playing their third game in the space of four weeks, the Burr Boys mastered the conditions and pressure-cooker atmosphere of the season decider held at Nangwarry on Saturday.
The Eagles looked to have ‘one hand on the trophy’ early in the second quarter, but the never-say-die spirit of the Burr Boys then came to the fore.
The reigning premiers then booted 10 of the next 14 goals to add to their imposing record in grand finals which began with their breakthrough flag under coach Tony Hodgens in 1959.
The Mozzies seldom allowed the Eagles to settle into the groove and made them work hard for every possession.
Hatherleigh mostly lacked cohesion while Mount Burr had three star performers who delivered the goods in every quarter.
Walker Medallist Henry Crauford, co-captain Jake Dowdy and coach Tom Renzi were to the fore.
Between them, they also booted eight of Mount Burr’s 12 goals.
Crauford dominated the ruck contests and field play, Dowdy was lively in attack and Renzi was the powerhouse general in the pivot.
Hatherleigh co-captains Jase Bateman and Gerard McGrath won the toss and chose to kick to the northern end.
This was favoured by a breeze worth about two goals and this indeed was the approximate difference between the sides at the first change.
Although Hatherleigh led at this time, some of its key players were either off the boil or well-tagged by their Mount Burr opponents.
On the other hand, some of the Mozzies were being given too much latitude.
The Eagles had four individual goalkickers in the first term, while the majors to the Mozzies came from Crauford and Renzi.
The Eagles began the second term in the best possible fashion, as assistant coach Caolan Buckley booted a goal into the breeze at the southern end of the ground with only 36 seconds gone on the time-clock.
An arm wrestle then ensued for the next five minutes until a game-changing burst of 15 minutes from the Burr Boys.
Dylan Ridley booted a major and he was followed in quick succession by Dowdy, twice and Dale Bowering.
It could have been worse for Hatherleigh but Will Whitty only posted a minor score from a set shot 30 metres from goal.
Mount Burr never again fell behind, but Brad Wight was able to tie up the scores with a goal as the time-on period approached.
While the off-duty umpires staged a foot race for footballers during half-time, each team reflected on their scores of 6.4 a piece.
The so-called premiership quarter belonged to Renzi as he had a hand in all three Mozzie goals.
The Eagles may have had the advantage of a weakening breeze but the Mozzies posted majors at the 11, 14 and 18 minute marks.
Crauford converted from a Renzi mis-kick, Renzi himself milked a free for maximum effect and then he passed to co-captain Brodie Hennink who booted a six-pointer.
The reigning premiers shot out to a lead of 19 points before Wight posted his third goal of the contest to revive the Hatherleigh spirits.
Trailing by 13 points at the last change, Hatherleigh needed to boot the first goal of the term, but it turned out to be Dowdy.
At the half-way mark of the term, another Buckley goal cut the margin to two straight kicks.
However, Crauford was in the play yet again soon after.
His goal after a strong mark sealed the fate of Hatherleigh.
To my mind, the best Mozzies were Crauford, Renzi and Dowdy and this trio were worthy candidates for the Stan Jones Memorial Medal as best-on-ground.
Field umpires Brian Chant, Michael Pink and Gavin Motley gave the nod to Crauford and they got just about every other decision correct as well.
Hatherleigh had few four-quarter performers and players like the Wallis brothers blocked many attacking moves.
Todd Watson and Jed Telfer were the best defenders.
Wight kicked some handy goals while coach Jase Faulkner, Joe Rayson and Gerard McGrath were the best of the on-ballers.
It was only the second final played by Hatherleigh since 2013, while Mount Burr showed the value of much major round experience.
It was remarkable the Eagles and the Mozzies met in the grand final, as both teams has occupied the second-to-bottom spot early in the year.
Neither side made changes to the lineups which had earned them success earlier in the major round.
Teens Clayton Skeer and Jake Wight played twice on Saturday as they also lined up in the losing Hatherleigh senior colts side against Port MacDonnell.
Once again, Mount Burr’s charmed with injury has continued unabated since its 2009 premiership with every first-choice player available for selection.
Saturday was only the second time the Eagles and the Mozzies had met in a season decider and it was the second win for Mount Burr.
The green-and-golds had won their 1976 grand final meeting also at Nangwarry by 94 points.
As the 2017 season unfolded, Mount Burr showed it would be a powerhouse combination and well placed to defend its title.
Much credit goes to Renzi who kept faith with his team and was a key player in the “big dance”.