PANMURE ultimately did it easy.
The Bulldogs are this week celebrating a second consecutive Warrnambool and District league premiership, their fifth in 17 years since entering the league.
The 13.13 (91) to 5.11 (41) triumph against a gallant but battle-weary Dennington at Reid Oval on Saturday was as routine as grand final wins come.
The foundations came in the opening term, when Panmure kicked three goals against the breeze and led by seven points at quarter-time.
Quarters of two, two and six goals thereafter sealed one of the more straight-forward victories the Bulldogs have enjoyed.
This was not a match won with a burst of goals, or a standout individual performance.
Rather, the premier built its lead the longer the match went on and had an even spread of role-players.
At least half the side was worthy of featuring in the best players’ list. The top 10 players overall were almost all Bulldogs.
“We didn’t have a passenger today,” Panmure coach Simon O’Keefe said.
“We didn’t need everyone to get 30 touches but everyone played a role.
“If they laid 10 tackles and had five kicks I would’ve been happy.”
The match had started so differently for Dennington. Captain Chris Keilar won the toss and opted for the wind-assisted northern end.
The Dogs had most of the early play but couldn’t score and fell behind when Bulldog Sam Mahony kicked the opening major after a Chris Bant pass.
Ruckman James Keane grabbed the second from a free kick before O’Keefe goaled on the run from 30 metres barely a minute later, the scores 3.2 to 0.1 after 13 minutes.
A snapped effort from Nathan Krepp and a wonderful Chris Keilar set shot from the boundary only served to cut the margin.
But Panmure couldn’t kick clear in the second term, undoing much of its early work with wasteful kicking in front of goal.
Gary Robinson — who surprisingly had Leigh Niklaus as a match-up — kicked the only two goals to put the Bulldogs up 5.9 to 2.4 at the long break.
The first was from a sublime Shaun Griffin pass while Niklaus gifted him the second with a holding-the-man free kick well off the ball.
Robinson missed much of the regular season with a knee injury. His return has been crucial to the Bulldogs’ fortunes for two reasons.
He frees up Chris Bant to push further up the ground, a role the co-captain executed to perfection in the grand final. And he is a full-forward in the traditional sense — strong on the lead and in marking contests and has a great set of hands.
Robinson’s return of 4.3 represented a good day out. Just as important were his eight marks inside 50 — two more than Dennington took for the match.
He was what the Dogs lacked — a key forward who could demand the football and beat his opponent.
Dennington mounted a mini-comeback in the third quarter and should have been within striking distance at three-quarter-time.
But woeful composure around goals meant it added just 2.5 and was still 21 points down at the last change.
Alex Pye — one of the best all day — kicked an early goal after marking in the goal square but should have had another two later in the term.
He took a hanger in the forward pocket, capping off the Dogs’ best passage of the day, but remarkably missed from 20 metres out.
Shamus O’Beirne made them pay by getting on the end of a chain of handballs and kicking one of the goals of the day minutes later.
The Dogs could’ve been 11 points down. They instead trailed by 22. Robinson made it 28 shortly before the last break with this third goal.
The Bulldogs’ six-goal last quarter meant the scoreboard blew out although the truth was the final margin reflected their dominance.
Bant kicked three of them, drifting forward to earn just reward.
He was one of easily a dozen solid contributors — Robinson, Keane, O’Keefe, Mahony and Jye Bidmade among them.
McKenry, the AFL Victoria Country Medal winner, was exceptional shutting down Brandon Edwards in the first half.
Tim McPherson took home the Scott Stewart Medal for keeping Keilar to two goals.
His defensive teammates Dan Meade, Jordan Brown, Tim Condon and Nathan Shand were also outstanding.
Dennington had its winners too, just far fewer of them. Keilar, Pye, Jordan Green, Kyall Timms and Darcy Lewis could all hold their heads high.