ANDREW Walker came home, Simon Maddox came back and they both got front-row seats to the Simon Buckley Show at Vic Park.
The midfielder tore the heart out of a gutsy Tatura at the weekend — his 47 disposals dragged his team to a heart stopping come-from-behind victory.
Then the Murray Bombers cashed in on a gruelling pre-season with a new level of fitness so badly lacking in previous years; running over the top of the Bulldogs when in previous seasons they would have hit the wall.
The home team, thrilling a 5000-strong crowd, booted five of the last six goals to win by seven points.
It was a far cry from the first quarter when the side couldn’t buy a major, kicking 2.4 with Tat just as bad with its 3.5.
But Tatura would build on that lead, 15 points up at the main break and still with a 13-point buffer as the sides turned for home.
Echuca’s history of allowing teams to run away in the second half of matches is clearly not part of the new game plan under coaches Walker and Maddox. With Tat starting to run out of legs, the message from off-field coach Maddox was blunt – keep attacking.
And they did, with Buckley impenetrable across the centre, continually driving his side into attack.
Tat kicked the opening goal of the quarter for a 20-point lead and then Echuca simply took charge.
With three goals each, Kane Morris, Luke McKenna and Tim Allan all made major contributions when it really counted.
After the game Buckley, the new co-captain, said his team always felt like they were in the game.
“We had done a really good pre-season, so we had the grounding,” he said.
“We knew if we just kept slugging it out things would turn our way.
“We still had the legs to keep pushing, whereas in previous years we probably haven’t and have let those games turn into blowouts.”
Walker, who had played some dazzling football in bursts throughout the game, said he was proud of his group.
“We had moments when we were pretty sloppy with the ball, but that doesn’t take away from our mindset,” he said.
“That constant, brutal mindset that we had going through that game was crucial – and telling.
“Tat got a bit in front but we were never out of it, we had that willingness to get ourselves back into the game, that’s what you want as a coach.”
With a week off as the GVL completes its split round one, Maddox said there was still a lot to work on.
He said the game converted pre-season theory into on-field reality and felt the new-look side send a very loud message to the rest of the league – Echuca circa 2018 is “hard and tough”.
“We owned some of the game earlier but we just didn’t hurt them on the scoreboard,” Maddox explained.
“We have to be cleaner with our usage, keep working on our structures. As we get more on top of that, we will get even better.”
When round two begins the Murray Bombers will face their first serious test when they run headlong into 2017 preliminary finalist Seymour – away.