A dazzling final quarter carried a new-look Echuca to victory in an Easter Saturday Goulburn Valley League special against Tatura.
Both sides produced high level football and it was the Bulldogs that looked stronger through three quarters — before the Murray Bombers rattled off five straight goals in the final term to steal a memorable seven-point win.
Each team was littered with new players, but it was a familiar face — Simon Buckley — who stole the show with another 40-plus possession performance, again somewhat single-handedly dragging the Murray Bombers into a winning position.
Earlier though it looked like Tatura had perfected its role as the villain on hometown hero Andrew Walker’s return to Victoria Park.
The Bulldogs moved the ball with searing precision and ran hard to seamlessly transition into attack; Matt Ryan the main beneficiary with five goals.
Billy Cooper was prolific carrying them forward, while Jamason Daniels, Billy Lovel and Linc Wellington were precise kicking inside 50.
Ahead at all three breaks, including by 13 points with a quarter to play, the Bulldogs ran out of legs as Echuca lifted, storming home in front of an electric home crowd.
The significance of the stirring win was not lost on playing coach Walker, who said nailing the basics enabled the final quarter turnaround.
‘‘I’ll tell you what, that feeling was as good a feeling as I’ve had in the game of footy,’’ Walker said.
‘‘One for the performance, but two to turn around and see what (the crowd) was like was incredible.
‘‘We just weren’t clean with the footy and were missing easy options. I think in that last quarter we just played simple, basic footy, got the ball long and our forwards got to work and kicked goals.’’
But the Saturday spectacular was not simply about Walker’s return, but also the arrival of several young Murray Bombers stars.
Chief among them was Darby Henderson, who lit up the final term with a stack of touches, precision ball-use and a long-range goal, after missing much of the first three quarters with a knee injury.
His Dustin Martin-style haircut was fitting as he fended off opponents and won the contested ball frequently as Echuca worked its way to the front.
Ruckman Jobee Warde fought hard all day with Brandyn Grenfell and the Bulldogs’ other rucks, holding his own, if not winning the overall battle.
Luke McKenna became an important forward target with three goals, while debutant goalsneak Jordan Frew sealed the win late with his first senior goal.
Walker was thrilled with his young talents, particularly Henderson’s ability to fight through injury.
‘‘Darby came up to me at half-time and said there was no way he was going to miss out on coming back on the ground,’’ he said.
‘‘To see that mindset is within the boys is just fantastic, being a coach and player knowing you’re surrounded by players like that.’’
Bulldogs coach Daniels said losing was a tough pill to swallow after playing some excellent footy.
‘‘We did a few things structurally that we’d like to change if we had our time again, and we went away from a few things that probably put us in the position we were in,’’ he said.
‘‘They’re a really good side, and we probably matched it with them or were the better side for most of the day.’’
Recruits Cooper and Grenfell impressed and Daniels said the side would learn and improve with more time together.
‘‘We’ll just fix up a few little areas and I think we can be a pretty good side,’’ he said.
‘‘And I think sometimes these things are good to happen in round one.
‘‘I’d rather it happen now, learn from it, and rectify it later in the year.’’