The Archive | Three decades ago the preliminary finals (played in the 1980s) were generally tough and tightly fought out affairs.
In 1984 Sandhurst and Eaglehawk clashed in atrocious wet conditions, a day restricting the combined goal tally to just 10.
The Dragons had downed the Hawks in the qualifying final booting 7.8 in the second term to establish a lead they would not relinquish.
But they were outclassed by Northern United in the second semi-final so for the second time in a fortnight the Hurst faced the Hawks, this time in the preliminary final.
In a tough slog the Borough boys reversed the earlier result and did enough to tip Sandhurst out of the finals race, winning 6.8 (44) to 4.10 (34).
Two seasons earlier the Dragons had also bowed out in the prelim. final.
After a crushing 1982 first semi victory over South Bendigo the Dragons had big hopes against Golden Square.
But the Bulldogs defenders held the Hurst attacks at bay in a frantic last quarter as the Square went on to win by four points.
Castlemaine was also a preliminary finalist in this era – in 1987 and 1988.
The Magpies had a terrific early finals campaign in ’87 beating South in the elimination final and then accounting for Kyneton in a surprise first semi-final result.
It was a big year in 1987 for Magpie stalwarts marking important milestones.
Dale ‘The Enforcer’ Wiliams and John Jefferies both played their 150th games, Ron Cawthan celebrated his 250th as the Magpies thrashed North Bendigo at Atkins Street while Len Watson had overcome serious injury problems earlier in his career to reach the 100th match milestone.
But let’s look back to the 1988 preliminary final.
The Maine Magpies went down to Northern United in the qualifying final, 6.8 (44) to the Swallows’ 11.14 (80), but they’d thumped Kyneton in the first semi-final: 26.22 (178) to the Tigers 15.9 (99).
It was a tight contest in that season’s prelim. final played on a Sunday 30 years back with neither club all that accurate in front of the big sticks.
The Maine’s Michael Rolfe had been selected in the final squad mid-season to represent the VCFL against the Western Australian Country Football League in Shepparton.
And his clubmate, then teenager Steven Oliver, was in the Victorian team (along with Castlemaine mate Rod Keogh) which represented Victoria in the interstate under-17 Teal Cup competition in Canberra.
Oliver was later named the 1988 BFL Rookie of the Year.
The Magpies got away to a 16-point first quarter lead in the 1988 preliminary final yet had they kicked accurately the margin would have been even greater.
A score of 3.7 kicking with the wind to the city end wasn’t a profitable return.
And they didn’t add to their scoreline --- not even a single point --- in the second term as the Swallows soared to the lead.
BY the long break it was United ahead by 11 points, 4.12 to 3.7, as big Dave ‘The Painter’ Wharton took control in the ruck.
He finished the match with 22 of United’s 30 ruck tapouts and booted a fine goal against the breeze in the all-important third stanza.
The Swallows also found the wind difficult to cope with when they had their turn at the city end.
A tally of 3.9 with a number of shots not even registering as the ball sailed out of bounds wasn’t a great return, either.
But at the other end of the QEO the United defence was rock solid.
Russell Muir, Ron Pangrazio and Ashley Miles held the star Magpie defenders in check all afternoon.
Steven Oliver and John Jefferies managed just the one goal between them for the preliminary final.
On-ballers (what we’d call mids these days) Ian Marlow (NU) and Lachie Butler (Cm) gathered close to 30 possessions each as Lazar Vidovic, Dean Henderson and Chris Tatt battled hard against Wharton and the other United ‘talls’.
In the Maine back end Rick Maguire was at full-back matched against Gerard Geary while Henderson was side-by--side with Tony Southcombe.
Assisting Maguire were Ron Cawthan and Rodney Leech.
The Maine was far more accurate in the third term adding 4.2 as they reduced the margin to two points at lemon time: 6.16 (53) to the Maine’s 7.9 (51).
Then the Swallows got on a last quarter roll adding three goals to one to win: 9.20 (74) to Castlemaine’s 8.10 (58).
Eddie Shiels kicked two goals for the day for United while Butler and Michael Rolfe nailed a pair each for the Maine.
But if it was a great win by United in that 1988 prelim. final they had the odds stacked against them for the grand final.
That season three decades back Golden Square had won all three games versus the Swallows: in May at Raywood 22.8 to 14.5 and then on August 6th at Wade Street, 12.13 to 10.12.
In the second semi-final on September 4th it was the Dogs again, but by just two points: 12.13 (85) to 12.11 (83).
The United supporters must have taken heart by analysing those scores. The margin had shrunk from the first meeting to the third.
From a 51-point drubbing early in the season to a 13-point loss in the second round of home-and-away games.
And then as Square soared into its first grand final since 1983 the difference between the two great clubs was less than a kick: just two points.
The Swallows had downed Eaglehawk in the 1984, 1986 and 1987 grand finals although Sandhurst in 1985 had pushed United to their closest result in the four, straight premierships.
And not all that long ago --- back in 2004 --- the BFL grand final was switched from a Sunday timeslot to the Saturday.
Both season-enders in the grannie and the preliminary final had previously been played on Sundays.
However, BFL board chairman Mark Johnston confirmed the switches citing the crowd-drawing potential of the major league showpiece game to the region’s district footy fans.
In a mid-July board meeting it was decided the 2004 grand final would be played on the Saturday although the scheduling for the prelim. final remained as a Sunday fixture.
Mr Johnston confirmed the reason for listing the grand final for a Sunday in the early Noughties was to avoid clashes with AFL end-of-season round games, plus the finals, leaving would-be QEO attendees at home in front of their television sets.
For instance the 2004 qualifying Saturday night game was scheduled for the same time bracket as the Brisbane-Kangaroos and St Kilda-Fremantle round 22 matches.
Mr Johnston cited the success of night BFL games earlier in that 2004 season.
“Those games were held at the QEO and even though we were blessed with some pretty modest weather there were some terrific crowds there,” the board chairman said.
“And we’ve heard from the clubs who provide workers for Sunday finals they really struggle to get numbers on that day of the week.
“It’s far easier for the clubs involved to get their workers and volunteers on Saturdays.”
By Richard Jones