October 1, 2000 was the perfect day for Shepparton Football Club.
The Bears claimed all three football premierships, with the senior team backing up the efforts of the reserves and under-18s by downing arch-rival Shepparton United by 27 points.
On the same day as the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics, Shepparton was the undisputed king of the Goulburn Valley League.
After such a dominant display, nobody could have predicted it would be 17 years before the Bears would be back in a senior grand final.
Shepparton’s last premiership coach Mark ‘‘Chops’’ Lambourn said everything just clicked for the Bears that year.
Lambourn crossed from Shepparton Swans (formerly Lemnos), the club he won a Morrison Medal at in 1996, ahead of the 2000 season when coach Tony Tranter took up a job in Queensland.
The club had gone from being without a coach around Christmas time to being just the second team after Shepparton United in 1980 to win all three premierships.
‘‘Luck plays a large part in it all with avoiding injuries and guys being together at the right time, but we were fortunate back then, as I guess Kyabram is now, that we had all local boys contributing,’’ Lambourn said.
‘‘We had Anthony Mellington coming from the AFL, so he was a Shepparton player and then a few other semi-local guys from around the area, but it wasn’t like we had all these guys coming out of Melbourne.
‘‘To have three teams of quality footballers in the one space was a pretty special feat and it all came together.’’
The Bears were a goal down at half-time, but outstanding games from Sam Ahmet, Adam Bovalino and Matt Byers helped them pull away in a special third-quarter burst.
United’s Justin Crough won the Wilf Cox Medal in a losing grand final, while Bovalino came away with the VCFL Medal.
Before the grand final, Lambourn famously wrote a letter to all of his players, drawing inspiration from his former Cobram coach Phil Bunn.
‘‘We had an extra week up our sleeves heading into the grand final and I wrote an individual letter to each player,’’ Lambourn said.
‘‘It’s quite funny, I’ve bumped into a few guys recently and they still have the letter, which is really special.’’
Lambourn stayed on as playing coach at the Bears in 2001 before returning to Cobram the next year where he continued to dominate the Murray Football League.
He said he was unsure why Shepparton had taken so long to rise back up the ladder again, but was glad it had.
‘‘It is hard to comprehend it’s been 17 years since that premiership and not being back in a grand final, but Shepparton still has been a successful club and success to me doesn’t mean you always win senior grand finals,’’ Lambourn said.
‘‘It’s difficult to not be caught up in the momentum the Bears are on at the moment and everyone has an invested interest in the game.
‘‘I’m still the last premiership coach and it’s great to have that title, but at the same time it’d be great to hand over the reins to someone else.’’
Lambourn will be at Deakin Reserve on Sunday in his role as AFL Goulburn Murray football development manager.
While Kyabram deservedly start as favourites, Lambourn sees the young Bears taking it right up to their more-fancied opponents.
‘‘I think it will be close, but the Bears will have to be on their best game to be up there,’’ Lambourn said.
‘‘The qualifying final a few weeks ago, you saw Kyabram have so many quality players on every line and you have a guy like (Kyle) Mueller having a dozen touches and they can win by playing like that.
‘‘Shepp is going to need 21 contributors to make a game of it, but the longer they’re in the game, the more they’ll start to believe.
‘‘You go back to 2014 and there was no way Benalla loses that game to the Shepp Swans considering those sides and what Benalla had achieved during the year, but it happened.
‘‘It might be similar sort of weather, blustery conditions, so you never know, but it will be an exciting game that I’m looking forward to.’’
2000 GRAND FINAL
October 1, Deakin Reserve
Shepparton 4.1, 6.1, 11.4 15.5 (95) d
Shepp United 2.2, 6.7, 7.9, 9.14 (68)
Shepparton: A. Mellington 3, J. Wells 3, A. Bovalino 3, P. Guthrie 2, B. Wells, B. Tremellen, J. Brooks, M. Byers
United: B. Cooper 5, D. Mitchelson, L. Snooks, R. Osborne, J. Davies
Shepparton: S. Ahmet, A. Bovalino, C. Starritt, M. Byers, J. Brooks, M. Lambourn.
United: P. McInneny, D. Gillespie, D. Hueston, D. Mitchelson, N. Parker, J. Crough.