A GREAT fightback by the Bendigo Bank Pioneers was capped with a three-point victory in the AFL Victoria TAC Cup under-18 football match on Easter Saturday against Oakleigh Chargers.
Down by 10 points at the 10-minute mark of the final quarter, the Pioneers appeared to be headed to another defeat.
Bendigo refused to yield on Oakleigh’s turf at Warrawee Park and scored goals through Liam Byrne and Cohuna’s Ben Archard to regain the lead.
A hard-fought contest ended with the Pioneers in front, 9.7 (61) to 7.16 (58).
Bendigo’s first-year coach David Newett praised the team’s “never give up” attitude.
“It was a courageous performance,” Newett said of the Pioneers effort to hit back when Oakleigh had charged to the lead halfway through the final quarter.
“There were so many contributors for us in this match,” said Newett.
“Liam Byrne and Sam Heavyside played brilliantly,” he said of the on-ballers.
“They won a lot of possessions at stoppages, which had been a big focus in pre-season and in every game we have played.”
South Bendigo’s Byrne has figured among the Pioneers best in his first two under-18 matches for the club.
Heayvside was the Neville Strauch medallist for Bendigo last season and had plenty of support from the on-ball and midfield brigade in Saturday’s win.
Bendigo’s attack was led by Archard on three goals, while Woorinen’s Billy McInnes chipped in with two.
“Alex Hywood played his first TAC Cup match and competed really well,” Newett said of the youngster from Sandhurst, who kicked a goal.
Donald’s Zac May set up many attacks with his tapwork at centre bounces and around the ground. He also booted a goal, as did Wentworth’s Sam Clyne and Mildura Imperials’ Dylan Darby.
Strathfieldsaye’s Ben Lester continued his great start to the season with another strong game in defence.
The Pioneers best included Isaiah Miller from Sandhurst.
“Our pressure on the opposition was outstanding,” the coach said.
“It’s important to win the ball back or, at the very least, keep pressure on your opponent. Defensive acts and pressure played a big part in our win.”
The Pioneers play their first home game of 2012 this Saturday from 10.30am against the in-form Gippsland Power.