Four Quarters: Dee-lightful flag triumphs

Success: The Yarram Demons celebrate winning the 2018 North Gippsland Football-Netball senior premiership. photo north gippsland football-netball league

Liam Durkin

COUNTLESS Melbourne supporters across the Latrobe Valley no doubt screamed, cheered and probably even shed a tear when it became clear their team was going to win the AFL premiership on Saturday.
After 57 long years, the Demons finally gave those supporters
something to crow about, as red and blue diehards witnessed something they perhaps thought they would never see in their lifetime.
Keeping the theme of Demons
winning on grand final day, here are four occasions where it has happened in Gippsland.
1. Boolarra 1997.
SOMEWHAT fittingly given the
combatants for the AFL grand final, the 1997 Mid Gippsland Football-Netball League decider saw Boolarra in Demon jumpers take on Newborough in Bulldog jumpers.
Rated as Boolarra’s greatest premiership, the Demons well and truly came from the clouds in 1997.
After finishing the regular season in fourth position with 11 wins, Boolarra put it all together during the finals.
The Demons defeated Yallourn Yallourn North in the elimination final, and then got home by seven points against Morwell East in the first semi.
Another pulsating final saw Boolarra win the preliminary final by five points over Yinnar to set up a grand final with Newborough.
The Bulldogs had ended the home-and-away season a game clear on top of the ladder and looked a good show to win their sixth MGFNL title.
However, grand final day proved to be Boolarra’s, as the Demons won 20.10 (139) to 16.13 (109).
A crowd that paid $14,212 at the Morwell East gate saw Boolarra win its first senior premiership in 38 years, capping off a three year build that had seen the team finish the previous two seasons in fifth and fourth respectively.
To sweeten the taste of victory, the Demons reserves also won the flag that season, netting huge
celebrations out Boolarra way.
By all reports it was a Project X-style party for the ages.
Boolarra’s success in 1997 could be attributed to a thriving student population at Monash University Churchill (now Federation University) at the time, as many youngsters bolstered the Demons playing stocks by deciding to venture out and make Boolarra the place where they played their football.
2. Yarram 2018.
ANOTHER Demons versus Bulldogs grand final occurred in the North Gippsland Football-Netball League only a few seasons ago.
Unlike the AFL grand final however, the 2017 NGFNL decider saw the Bulldogs of Sale City defeat the Yarram Demons.
Yarram was back the next season to make amends, and did just that by defeating Churchill 8.17 (65) to 5.3 (33).
The Demons were by far the best team in the competition that season, dropping just one game during the home-and-away campaign.
Yarram won through to the grand final after defeating Traralgon Tyers United by 32 points in the second semi final, and broke away from a determined Churchill after quarter time a fortnight later.
Trek Davis, Jesse Field, Chris Bruns and of course, Griffin Underwood, were judged best on ground in the grand final for Yarram.
The year 2018 proved to be a good one for not only the Demons but also the Vardy brothers, as Yarram’s Daniel Vardy won a premiership in the same year his brother Nathan won a flag with West Coast in the AFL.
The Demons reserves also won the premiership in 2018, with current senior coach Justin Staley kicking the sealer to complete a stunning last quarter comeback in which Yarram booted four goals to none to win by 10 points.
The Demons most recent flag was their first in the NGFNL, adding to premierships won in the Alberton Football-Netball League in 1954, 1972, 1977, 1986 and 2007.
3. Bairnsdale 1981.
DUBBED ‘A September To Remember’, the Redlegs 1981 triumph in the Gippsland League was so memorable it’s even got a book written about it.
After years of struggle, Bairnsdale finally broke through in 1981 to claim its first, and to date, only senior premiership in the major league.
It is without question the most famous victory in the clubs history, and was even more noteworthy for the fact it was won with a team of entirely local players.
Where it was previously commonplace for quality players to be scattered across East Gippsland’s minor leagues, a network of players decided to all play together at Bairnsdale in 1981 and see how far they could go.
In the line-up included 19-year-olds Brian Royal and Tom Alvin, who would both go on to have distinguished careers at Footscray and Carlton.
Bairnsdale scrapped into the top four and then defeated Warragul and Traralgon in successive finals, meaning a date with destiny awaited them against a highly fancied Sale for the premiership.
With the weight of sentimentality on their side, the Redlegs ended up winning the grand final by 21 points, setting off celebrations that began at Ted Summerton Reserve, Moe, continued to the Stratford Pub on the bus trip back and then into the town of Bairnsdale itself.
A rock-star reception greeted the Redlegs as they entered the town, so much so a police escort had to guide the team bus through as supporters lined the streets.
A parade followed some time later, with the premiership flag proudly taking front position.
4. Meeniyan Dumbalk United 1990.
MEENIYAN Dumbalk United’s last senior premiership came in 1990.
The Demons enjoyed a successful era in the Alberton Football-Netball League from 1975 to 1990 with five premierships spaced out in those years.
In 1990, MDU defeated Foster 14.19 (103) to 11.12 (78) in the grand final, in what offered a bit of a side story given Foster was the reason MDU had to become the Demons.
When Meeniyan and Dumbalk merged in 1964 the senior team wore Richmond-style jumpers while the seconds wore jumpers of black and red vertical stripes in the then South Gippsland Football League.
Five years later MDU entered the AFNL and had to change jumpers as Foster already had the Tiger colours.
In the end, MDU settled on
wearing red and blue and the Demons moniker lives on to this day.
The South Gippsland Football League took in a variety of clubs now competing elsewhere before disbanding in 1965.
As well as MDU, teams such as Stony Creek, Fish Creek and Toora joined the AFNL over time, while
others like Korumburra and Wonthaggi Blues came to be
affiliated with the Bass Valley Football League.
A segment for another time would be to talk about the days of the Bass Valley Football League, which became known as the ‘Bash Valley Football League’ for obvious reasons.
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Local connection: Much like the AFL, it was a Demons-Bulldogs grand final in the 1997 Mid Gippsland Football-Netball League, which ended with Boolarra defeating Newborough. file photograph