Painful narrow losses had become all too familiar for Tatura during a frustrating 2017 season, however the Bulldogs finally received some reward for their effort, defeating top-six-side Benalla by 11 points at Tatura Park.
The Bulldogs went into Saturday’s game celebrating what was likely to be club legend Paul Kirby’s last game and his teammates rose to the occasion with a stirring victory.
Tatura scored the first goal of the game and, apart from the final minutes of the first term, maintained a lead until the final siren.
The return of playing-coach Jamason Daniels from a serious leg injury added some real spark to the Bulldogs’ line-up and Benalla was unable to match their speed and spread through the middle of the ground.
The Bulldogs’ backline was superb, keeping their dangerous opposition forwards to six goals as they continually repelled the Saints’ forward thrusts with organised efficiency.
Brad Ryan, Che Walls and Tom Miller led the way with their aggressive attack on the footy, while the remainder of the back-six made solid contributions in an outstanding performance.
However, it was Tatura young gun Mitch Elliott who turned on his most complete game of the year with more than 30 possessions and three goals.
Elliott has always been dangerous as a small forward but has taken his game to another level through the midfield. His ability to read the ball off hands and to link up with his runners is now a real asset to an improving team.
Andrew Ciavarella was also excellent through the midfield with what seemed to be an enormous number of contested possessions, while the running power of James Wall and Rian McGough gave the Bulldogs a drive that was unmatched.
It was a performance that gave the Bulldogs faithfuls some real hope that significant improvement is not far away.
Daniels was ecstatic with the performance of his team and recognised the contributions Kirby and young backman James Nihill, who celebrated his 50th senior game with the exciting victory.
Final score: Tatura 9.4.58 defeated Benalla 6.11.47
Best: Mitch Elliott, Brad Ryan, Che Walls, James Wall, Andrew Ciavarella and Tom Miller.
Final score: Tatura 20.14.134 defeated Benalla 5.6.36
Best: Daniel Flynn, Shane Kay, Jake Chessells, Dylan Argus, Dylan Minutoli and Sam Green.
The Bulldogs’ under 18s side will see finals action for the first time in several years after finishing sixth with 12 wins and six losses.
The Bulldogs were narrowly defeated by fourth-placed Benalla on Saturday and will face Shepparton Bears at Tatura Park this Saturday at 10am.
Final score: Benalla 11.7.73 defeated Tatura 8.7.55
Best: Ethan Moor, Matt Lange Richards, Mason Farley, David Palmer, Gabe Evans and Brodie Sanders.