Harvey-Brunswick-Leschenault fought off a fourth-quarter comeback from Donnybrook to clinch a thrilling three-point victory in round one.
Heading into the new season, the Lions were forced to retool after multiple players left the club.
Looking to go one better after 2017’s grand final result, the club was eager to start the 2018 South West Football League season favourably.
Backed by the roar of the home crowd at Brunswick Oval, HBL showed promise from the opening bouncedown.
Lion’s Jordan Sell kicked the side’s first goal before vice captain Brayden Prentice slotted a set shot near the boundary line.
Donnybrook’s backline stopped several key opportunities for HBL throughout the first quarter.
The away side responded midway through the term, with Justin Pittaway setting up Tyler Patterson for a shot close to the goal square.
An accurate snap kick from Jesse Crichton put HBL in front 3.3.21 to 1.1.7 at quarter time.
Donnybrook coach Julian Burgess demanded more consistent play from his side.
The leader urged his players to become more direct and focused within the first few minutes of the second term.
“When you get the football in your hands, you then go and control the game,” he said.
The Dons picked up early in the second quarter, as the team’s forwards moved effortlessly past the Lions’ defenders.
Midfielders on both sides put all of their energy into the clash and kept play within the middle of the ground.
After Donnybrook was caught holding the ball, HBL’s Christopher Buchanan had no trouble slotting his kick from the boundary line.
Two minutes after his first goal, Buchanan launched an impressive snap shot through the posts to put his side further in front.
A smother from Donnybrook’s Brock McCormick and a turnover from HBL saw Pittaway kick his first for the clash.
Right before half time, forward Kristin Thornton put two through the goal posts and helped HBL to a 7.6.48 to 3.4.22 lead at the main break.
Appearing relaxed and refreshed after half time, HBL tested Donnybrook’s backline and kept play within its forward 50.
Donnybrook’s first chance for the quarter was stopped by HBL’s enthusiastic defenders, before Jonathon Fenwick and Mitchell Andrews extended HBL’s margin.
The Lions suffered a significant blow midway through the term, as Reece Chell was stretchered from the ground after falling on his leg.
Although both sides missed crucial chances throughout the quarter, HBL looked set to maintain its lead up until the final siren.
Despite Jace Cormack’s goal late in the term, Donnybrook trailed the home side by 30 points at three-quarter time.
HBL coach Derek Hall pushed his side to continue its form and keep the ball forward.
Donnybrook, however, had other ideas and launched an all-out offensive against HBL in the fourth.
The crowd watched on as Donnybrook kicked five consecutive goals.
Driven by Cormack and Pittaway’s leadership, the away side hit the lead for the first time in the clash with two minutes remaining.
In the final minute, HBL gained possession and made a last-ditch attempt.
Fans erupted as Donnybrook was caught holding the ball 25 metres from HBL’s goal-line.
As the final siren sounded, Prentice judged the angle of the shot and the impact of the wind.
Players and fans swamped Prentice as the ball glided comfortably between the goal posts.
After coming close to giving the game away to Donnybrook, the Lions emphatically celebrated a 10.8.68 to 9.11.65 victory.