AFTER the disappointment of the previous season, the return of star player Denis Pangrazio and the addition of North Bendigo start Rodger Bone and John Rush gave the club optimism for the forthcoming season.
The opening round match against Tooborac was played in wet and wintry conditions but those at the Barrack Reserve cared little about them.
Despite both teams missing players due to the wedding of Noel Perry and Annmarie Tobin, it was an enthralling contest.
Not only did the club start with wins by all football and basketball teams, but it unveiled the newly painted clubrooms and unfurled the Thirds premiership pennant.
Losses to Colbinabbin and Mt. Pleasant in successive weeks saw the football community begin to doubt whether the Saints had improved enough to vie for finals in 1970.
A hard fought victory against Rushworth was then followed by a narrow loss to Elmore in a hard and bruising contest.
Three Heathcote players left the field with injury, but the improved form of some of the team’s younger players gave the Saints faithful some optimism.
Kevin Mitchell was brilliant in the Thirds’ 136-point victory, finishing with 12 goals in an impressive display.
After six rounds Heathcote found itself on the bottom of the ladder and its season was very much at the crossroads. At half-time in the match against Colbinabbin the Saints trailed by three goals, but Heathcote came out in the third term and played brilliant football.
Their tally of 5.5 saw them outplay Colbo and they now only trailed by one point at the final break and the match was there for the taking.
The last term was brilliant and the crowd sat on the edge of their seats as the lead changed frequently, but when the game ended it was the Saints that had held on to take victory by eight points.
On the field the team continued to gather momentum with victories over Mt. Pleasant and then third-placed Rushworth.
Rushworth had enjoyed a strong season so far and this match was expected to be a real challenge to the improved Saints.
As the game progressed it became obvious that Heathcote would be the stronger team and they ran out convincing winners by 44 points, 13.16 (94) to 6.12 (50). This victory took Heathcote to second place, but such was the evenness of the competition the four bottom teams were only separated by a game.
Tooborac was the next team to suffer at the hands of the Saints with the on-ball play of Ray McCumber and John Hicks ensuring their team’s dominance.
Continuing on their winning way the Saints were guaranteed a finals berth but the makeup of the four was still in doubt with the last round to play.
To add a little theatre Mt. Pleasant had lodged an appeal against Heathcote for playing John McGillivray when his name was not on the player’s list.
It was upheld and Heathcote lost the four points but that did not matter because they had defeated top team Elmore in the final round to maintain their second position on the ladder
With all three football teams in the 2nd semi final the township of Heathcote almost shut down as players and supporters travelled to Rushworth. Greg Francis and his thirds were first up and they did not disappoint as they defeated Rushworth by 33 points, led by a six goal haul to consistent goal-kicker Kevin Mitchell.
The reserves had finished on top of the ladder with only one defeat, however that had been against their opponent in the final, Elmore.
It all looked to be going to script and with 10 minutes to go they held a 15-point lead, but then it unravelled as suddenly the players seemed more interested in their opponent than the ball.
This lack of discipline proved their undoing as Elmore steadied and came back hard and kicked three straight goals to take the match by three points.
Finally the senior match got underway and Heathcote and Elmore would face off for the direct entry into the grand final.
It would be a fast game but with Rodger Bone and John Rush dominating around the packs and John McGillivray unpassable in defence Heathcote swept their opponents aside to win by 37 points.
It had been an even team performance with every man in the colours ensuring that they would enjoy a week’s rest. Coach Denis Pangrazio would take advantage of it as he was limping badly towards the end of the match.
The reserves would join the senior and thirds teams in the grand final after a much improved effort in the preliminary final against Mt. Pleasant. After Mt. Pleasant jumped out to an early lead the game became a tightly contested match, but a last quarter 5.1 saw the Saints through.
Grand final day at Colbinabbin would see the Heathcote club looking to create history as the first club to win all three football premierships. A perfect start to the campaign saw the thirds defeat Rushworth in a low scoring game, 4.5 (29) to 2.3 (15).
With skipper Anthony Barri playing a great captain’s game and Mick Mears dominating in the ruck and around the ground, the Saints gained first use of the ball.
Defender Peter Safstrom repelled any Tigers’ attacks and Kevin Mitchell capped off their great work by kicking three of the four goals.
Having had to work hard to get into the grand final the reserves and like the earlier game it was a tight and low-scoring encounter.
Little separated Elmore and Heathcote in the first half, but when Elmore kicked 2.1 and held a lethargic Heathcote scoreless the game appeared to be slipping out of their grasp.
With only a point separating them coach John Bonney gave them a strong address and demanded more. His charges responded and Heathcote ran out the game strongly to win by 19 points, 7.7 (49) to 4.6 (30).
Two games completed and won and now it would be the senior team’s turn, and few around the ground underestimated the challenge that faced the team. Elmore and Heathcote turned on an old-fashioned arm-wrestle and every goal was desperately fought for.
At the final change Elmore held a six point advantage and the tired players on both teams continued to throw everything into the contest. Scoring was difficult but in the final minutes of the game it would be Heathcote that would triumph. When Denis Pangrazio kicked the team’s eighth and final goal the Saints led by four points but Elmore were not finished and came hard but only scored points.
When the siren rang the Saints had held on to win by the narrowest of margins, 8.13 (61) to 9.6 (60).
Tired players and elated supporters were on the ground celebrating and the club had achieved history with their three flags.