On a sporting colosseum where so many legends have fought before them, the Goulburn Valley League’s stars produced a performance fitting of the venue.
The GV side stood toe-to-toe against the Ballarat league in the middle of the Melbourne Cricket Ground and traded blows in a sizzling display of high-octane football.
The game ebbed and flowed and it became a matter of which side could ride its wave the longest.
That team was the GV, who had seven of the final quarter’s first eight goals to turn a nine-point deficit into a 22-point triumph.
The end-to-end contest resembled the NBA All-Star game — defenders battled hard, but it was a secondary concern as both teams put a premium on attacking at all costs, reflected in the 36 combined goals kicked.
If it was an NBA contest, the LeBron James figure was Tatura tower Brandyn Grenfell, who, wearing the famous number 23 guernsey, could not be stopped by the Ballarat defence.
Grenfell put on a contested marking clinic and three final-term goals completed his match-winning haul of six.
But hard yards up the ground were the only reason it was possible, with captain Jason Cole racking up touches and repeatedly driving his side forward.
The all-star midfield delivered and got on top when it needed to, with Nathan Marrone, Brent Mahoney and Sam Martyn influential, while a similarly stellar defence led by coach Luke Morgan, Tom Holman and James Gledhill worked tirelessly rebounding the ball.
Early in the contest it looked as if Ballarat’s run and carry would be difficult to overcome, with forward pressure often stifling the GV’s ability to get the ball out of defence.
Ben Speight ran rampant all day, but four goals in the third term put his opposition on the ropes, only for it to punch its way out of trouble.
Grenfell got help on the scoring front from Matt Ryan and Luke Smith with three goals each, and Ben Clifton, Steven Stroobants and J.D. Hayes bobbed up with two.
Morgan said his side had produced when it mattered most.
‘‘I thought our spread in the last part of the game really lifted and we were able to win some crucial contests,’’ Morgan said.
‘‘There were some centre clearances we were able to win when the scores were level and we were able to get it forward to the big fella (Grenfell) and we were able to score, which was really good.
‘‘We were able to get clean shots at goal. Along with Brando you had Steve Stroobants, Lukey Smith, Benny Clifton — these guys were able to take marks and go back and convert.
‘‘And when you convert, you’re putting pressure on the opposition.’’
Morgan said his defensive unit’s ability to read the play and intercept it lifted after quarter-time, helping the side get moving forward quickly.
‘‘As part of the defensive group we talked about intercept marks as one of our focuses,’’ he said.
‘‘That was something we thought we did pretty well for the last three quarters. They were good in the first quarter and were able to expose us going forward.
‘‘But after quarter-time we were really good at that.’’
The GV is likely to move into the fifth versus sixth interleague clash next season after breaking a three-game losing streak.