Essendon beat Melbourne in grand final
“After 130 years, at last we’ve cracked it.”
Essendon Bowls Club team manager and long-serving clubman Ken Lee couldn’t have put it better, as Essendon secured their first top-level flag in the club’s 130-year existence – taking out the 2015-16 Saturday Metro Pennant top prize.
Essendon BC won the Taylor Bowls Premier Division grand final 78-73 over a brave Melbourne Bowling Club at Mulgrave – everything coming down to the last end.
There, newly-married Peter Loe’s rink fought a salvage mission despite a 24-12 defeat by Melbourne’s Scott Mortimer, but doing enough to ensure that Essendon’s four-shot margin secured by the other three winning rinks was preserved and extended to victory.
The stories were everywhere as were the tears, as Bombers players and supporters celebrated and wept openly on the green at a feat won through an up-and-down Premier Division season.
Teams clambered up, down and through the top four all season until Essendon’s semi-final win a fortnight ago gave them slight favouritism and a week off going into the decider.
For Loe, whose long-planned wedding happened on Friday night at Werribee Mansion with many of his teammates in attendance, it capped off an extraordinary weekend.
For a team full of Wilsons – brothers Nathan, Cameron and Matt – it was a family celebration as their rink edged out Brett Leighton 20-18.
For Tasmanian representative Lee Schraner and Anthony Flapper, they led winning rinks – Flapper seeing off the Premier Division’s best all-season skip Brad Martin 23-20.
But the early signs were ugly as Melbourne shot out to an early 9-0 lead, before Essendon reeled them back in, and the match settled into a slugfest with the lead changing hands innumerable times throughout a three-and-a-half hour contest of the highest calibre.
Essendon looked to have the momentum when they charged to a five-shot lead after 68 ends.
But Mortimer’s rink pulled out a five to level things up for Melbourne after 70, and move every backside in a packed house at Mulgrave Country Club to seat’s edge.
What followed next was two teams at the top of their game trading blow after blow. Melbourne held a one-shot advantage with all rinks having two ends left. Essendon then edged ahead by a shot, then two, then four going into the final end – Loe v Mortimer.
Essendon looked to have the match won, before Mortimer’s perfect drive skewered what would have been the final end. A new end followed, with Essendon picking up one shot to seal a famous victory.
Essendon had previously won an old Division 1 title, but when the Division 1 title was run in sections.
Lee admitted the Premier Division victory was as sweet as anything he’d been involved with in a long life in bowls, and the culmination of 20 years hard work by so many at the club.
“You see the players out there crying – it means that much to them. To this club as well, it means everything.”
Perhaps the tone was set earlier in the day. Before the match, 200 people attended the Bowls Victoria grand final brunch at Mulgrave Country Club’s Mulgrave Room, with four-time AFL premiership coach and three-time premiership player Kevin Sheedy the special guest.
Essendon FC great Sheedy’s entertaining speech added to a great morning, with Bowls Victoria President John Fisher OAM, chief executive Graeme Bridge and Arthritis and Osteoporosis Victoria chief executive Linda Martin among the speakers and comedian Elliot Goblet providing the laughs.
When asked by MC Michael Roberts, Sheedy left no doubt who he was cheering for, and the bowling Bombers obliged a few hours later.
Lee Schraner (Ess) 23 bt Mark McMahon (Melb) 11
Nathan Wilson (Ess) 20 bt Brett Leighton (Melb) 18
Anthony Flapper (Ess) 23 bt Brad Martin (Melb) 20
Peter Loe (Ess) 12 lost to Scott Mortimer (Melb) 24
Essendon 78 bt Melbourne 73