A DROUGHT-breaking premiership has all but erased memories of a decade of thrashings for resurgent Heywood.
The Lions are this week celebrating their first premiership since 1954 after running over Westerns in the South West District league grand final.
The 18.9 (117) to 11.11 (77) win at Portland’s Hanlon Park came in the club’s first season in the SWDFL, having crossed from the Western Border league.
Running backman Ben Millard was best afield, but was one of several contributors in a premiership which will resonate throughout bush football circles.
Onballer Jason Walker was sensational and James Imbi a livewire up forward, while full-forward Mick Wilson booted seven majors.
Victorious coach Shane Keegan, a veteran ruckman who retired post-match, said he was rapt to end his decorated career with a flag.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet but it’s a dream come true,” he said.
“This club means the world to me and to go out coaching these blokes to a flag, it’s something no one can take away from me.”
Keegan said Heywood had “21 players today who had to stand up and they did”.
“When it all sinks in this bunch of blokes will sit down and realise they’re a part of history at this club now,” he said.
“We get to look at our faces on the way every time we walk in there.
“It hasn’t sunk in for me yet and the same for these boys.
“We’ll celebrate long and hard, but it’s something to look back on forever and be very proud of.”
The final margin failed to tell the story of a hard-fought contest which was in the balance for much of the first half.
Heywood settled first and was up by 13 points in the first term, before Westerns kicked five of the next six goals to lead by 12.
But as quickly as it came back, Heywood kicked away — this time decisively.
The Lions booted seven unanswered goals to blow open the match in front of a record crowd. The game-changing rout started when Wilson kicked his second goal. Walker followed suit from long range and Brent Bailey put Heywood ahead.
Wilson then put his stamp on the final.
He converted moments before half-time — to give Heywood a 9.5 to 7.3 lead — and kicked three goals in five minutes when play resumed.
“I thought our boys stuck to what we know best and that’s using the ball well and one-on-one pressure, beating them in one-on-one contests,” Keegan said.
Westerns coach Adam Hawke lamented a poor third term, which he said cost the Roos the match.
He said league best and fairest Hayden Dyke led from the front, while Sam Anson and Eric Stewart were admirable.
Reece Cracknell kicked four goals and Luke Evans was also influential.
“At the start of the year we weren’t talked about so to finish where we did was good,” Hawke said.
“But no one likes finishing second either. You make a grand final you don’t want to lose it.”
Hawke said Westerns had a bright future if its young players committed to the club.
“They’re all young and that’s the best thing,” he said.