THE Bendigo Football League's two best teams - Gisborne and Golden Square - gave a mouth-watering entree to what could lie ahead in the finals when they played out an epic draw at Wade Street Oval on Saturday.
In a game played at a finals-like intensity, scores were locked together at 14.10 (94) apiece when the final siren sounded.
In what has been the best game of the year, living up to its top-of-the-ladder blockbuster status, Gisborne recovered from a 52-point deficit early in the second quarter to claim two valuable premiership points that guarantee they'll end the season on top of the ladder.
Gisborne conceded the first eight goals of the match, didn't score in the opening quarter and took until the 12-minute mark of the second term to kick its first goal, by which time it was 52 points down.
But it willed its way back into the contest and for most of the last quarter looked like winning.
"We just didn't turn up early and Golden Square really showed us how to play footy," Gisborne coach Luke Saunders said.
"Golden Square didn't let us into the game in the first quarter-and-a-half.
"They started strongly, won the ball better than us and we couldn't get into it."
Kicking with the aid of a strong breeze in the first quarter, Golden Square made full use of it, kicking 7.4 to lead by 46 points as it held Gisborne scoreless.
Square attacked the contest early like a team that had waited two months for another crack at Gisborne following its dismal showing against its Bulldogs rivals in round eight when beaten by 67 points.
Gisborne was best served by wingman Daniel Weaver, tenacious onballer Scott Walsh, full-back Heath Simpson, who held Weeks to four goals, and veteran Ollie Messaoudi, who revelled in the tough contest.
The draw was Gisborne's first in its 245 matches since joining the BFL in 2000.
Kyneton's efforts to no avail
At Kyneton, finals-bound Sandhurst looked in for a big day after jumping to a 36-point lead at quarter-time, only for a Tigers fightback to push the third-placed team.
The Tigers stayed with Sandhurst to trail by 35 at three-quarter-time before closing the final margin to 22 points: 10.7 (67) to 12.17 (89).
Tigers playing coach Nathan Thompson booted six goals, while Darren Chambers and Kris Davis were better players in the defeat.
The Tigers have one more chance to make a statement with this weekend's final home-and-away game against finals-bound Strathfieldsaye at Tannery Lane.
Kyneton will avoid the wooden spoon with a win or if seventh-placed Eaglehawk beats last-placed Castlemaine in the final round.
Gisborne stays in fifth
In A grade netball, Gisborne is locked into fifth after a one-goal defeat to Golden Square ended any chance of advancing up the table.
The 35-36 loss means Gisborne (7-1-7) cannot catch fourth-placed Golden Square (9-6) or be caught by sixth-placed Maryborough (5-10) with one round remaining.
- with Bendigo Advertiser
Golden Square 14.10 (94) drew Gisborne 14.10 (94)
GOALS - Golden Square: G. Weeks 4, M. O'Toole 3, T. Baird 2, C. Carter , R. Bradley , C. Sharp , S. Rosa , J. Griffin
Gisborne: M. Knox 3, D. Farrugia, L. Crosbie 2, T. Stanton-Smith , A. Headberry , D. Weaver , O. Messaoudi , E. McKenna , C. Illman , K. Grbac
BEST - Golden Square: S. Rosa, T. Baird, D. Lowry, M. O'Toole, O. Collins, L. Hammond
Gisborne: D. Weaver, S. Walsh, H. Simpson, J. Lynch, O. Messaoudi, J. Arnold
Kyneton 10.7 (67) lt Sandhurst 12.17 (89)
GOALS - Kyneton: N. Thompson 6, A. Beckerley 2, J. Boyer , Z. Boyer
Sandhurst: R. Symes 3, B. Holmes, D. Symes 2, N. Meade , N. Stagg , J. Ward , G. Hartney , M. Leyden
BEST - Kyneton: D. Chambers, K. Davis, M. Clancy, D. Romer, H. Huntley, A. Beckerley
Sahdnurst: T. Hartney, B. Holmes, M. Borchard, J. Wharton, N. Stagg, J. Wilkinson