SOUTH Launceston achieved yesterday what most people would have thought impossible at the start of the season - winning the 2013 State League premiership at Aurora Stadium after being the whipping boy for the preceding three years.
In a true rags-to-riches story, the Bulldogs dared to dream and dared to believe - and brilliantly led by coach Mitch Thorp, they gained just reward for their hard work, outworking and outrunning Burnie to claim a 10.14 (74) to 9.11 (65) victory, in a great pressure grand final contest.
Thorp praised his side's ticker in his post-match address after they fought off a determined challenge from a very good opponent in the reigning premier and held on for a thrilling nine-point victory.
The game was a tense, low-scoring arm-wrestle and battle all day which kept the spectators intrigued as to which team would come out on top.
Inaccurate kicking for goal plagued both sides, with the Bulldogs kicking five straight behinds in the opening quarter before defender Will Hanson kicked their first goal at the 18-minute mark.
South led by 10 points at quarter-time after a two-goal to one opening quarter and four at half-time after an even first half, Burnie booting three goals to two in the second.
Both sides threw everything into the contest with some ferocious tackling and hard running on the big ground which resulted in several players cramping up late in the game.
South kicked three in a row at the start of the premiership quarter through Alex Russell, Dylan Riley and Bart McCulloch to open up a 23-point advantage - its biggest of the game.
But a couple of late goals to Luke Shackleton and Brayden Hayes kept the Dockers in touch by 12 points at the final change.
In a frenetic final quarter, Rulla Kelly-Mansell kicked the all-important opening goal for South at the seven-minute mark to extend the lead to 18 points - before Shackleton answered with his second straight after to cut it back to 12.
Bulldogs coach Thorp, who had a great tussle all day with Nick McKenna, managed only two goals for the game but none more important than his second when he sidestepped around an opponent at the 13-minute mark to give South a 19-point lead and crucial breathing space.
Burnie had its chances to close the gap with James Plant, Banham and Shackleton all missing shots, until Nick Walters goaled on the run at the 22-minute mark to reduce the lead to 10 points.
The Dockers pressed hard in the final couple of minutes desperately trying to find a couple of goals but could not do so - McKenna missing a banana shot from a tight angle in the final minute as their last hurrah.
Jobi Harper picked up 24 possessions and kicked one goal for South in a best-on-ground performance that won him the Darrel Baldock medal.
Thorp pulled down 16 marks, had 23 touches and finished with two goals but was inaccurate in the first half missing four shots.
Matt Hanson ran his heart out to finish with 21, with Thorp singling out Jade Child and brother Beau Thorp after the game for their efforts in restricting Burnie play-makers Eli Templeton to nine touches and Shackleton to 12.
Brady Grey kicked two goals for the Dockers and was their best performer, along with Caleb Hislop, Nick and Harry Walters and Banham.
Jason Laycock had a quiet day, doing well in the hit-outs but finishing with nine touches and having little influence as did the Dockers co-captain Kade Munday.
South big man Bart McCulloch played injured and was subbed out in the third quarter.