ALL the great football stories are laced with emotion and a sense of theatre as dreams are both ended and brought to life on the same stage.
On Saturday Reid Oval hosted one of the great Warrnambool and District league preliminary finals, with Dennington emerging a 13.9 (87) to 12.7 (79) victor over Kolora-Noorat.
Dennington has rightfully been described as the Cinderella story of the season, as it has come from the elimination final to earn a place in the biggest game of the season.
The Dogs were brilliant and brave on Saturday and deserved to take the points in front of a big and engaged crowd.
Dennington playing coach Darcy Lewis was heroic. He moved from his regular post in attack to play in the ruck. From the first siren to the last, he proved an inspiration to his teammates.
Among those teammates is his brother Sam Lewis, with the win meaning the brothers will be aiming to complete an amazing piece of history when they come up against the Bulldogs in the grand final.
The last time Dennington won a premiership was in 1988 when Darcy and Sam’s father Geoff Lewis coached the Dogs against Old Collegians.
And like this season, Geoff led his 1988 team to the grand final from the elimination final, providing a good omen for history to repeat for his sons.
While the Dogs are in the middle of their own fairytale, the Power should not be cast as a villain despite falling out of the finals with two losses after being unbeaten throughout the season.
The silky-smooth skills that have built the Kolora-Noorat empire may not have been at their best but the Power were brave in defeat. The Dogs threw everything at the Power and it took all Dennington had to get the win.
While they were beaten favourites, the Power showed they were up for a fight even if they were not able to play at the top of their game.
The pressure around the football was hot all day, but perhaps the most telling factor was Dennington’s ability to push players behind the ball.
Whenever the Power looked to go forward they were faced with a sea of red-and-white jumpers, which gave the Kolora-Noorat forwards no space to lead into.
This made it impossible for the Power to pinpoint their passes the way they so often do.
Despite fronting for a third final in a row, Dennington was going full tilt from the start, with the first three goals kicking with the wind at its back to the town end of the ground the perfect start.
The Power were able to get two of their own to bring the margin back to 19 points at quarter-time. They held Dennington scoreless for the second quarter and kicked four goals themselves to lead by seven points at half-time.
It looked like the Power machine was starting to crank up but the Dogs responded with four goals to two in the third quarter to hold a 10-point lead.
But that lead soon disappeared as Mark Clissold kicked the first three goals of the final quarter to give his team to a nine-point lead.
The Dogs kept coming, with a goal to Chris Keilar at the 12-minute bringing the margin inside a goal, but when the Power’s Joe Kenna snapped truly just moments later it looked like Dennington’s brave run may be nearing an end.
With Darcy Lewis leading from the front, Dylan Willsher full of run on a wing and Brandon Everard now having an influence in the centre, the Dogs were able to steal back the momentum.
Goals to Keilar and Everard got the Dogs back in front by a point at the 20-minute mark and a behind from Alex Pye took the lead to two with just minutes remaining.
The deal was sealed when Dogs forward Nathan Krepp snapped truly to take the lead to eight points, an advantage his team held on to with a fierce desire to record a famous win.
It was an amazing game of football and the Dogs will go into this week’s grand final not only sentimental favourites but with a genuine chance to win their first premiership in a quarter of a century.