RUPANYUP became the second club to clinch a Horsham District league senior football three-peat after its 1998 premiership.
Only Laharum from 1962-64 had previously achieved the feat.
In his first coaching role, Paul Brooks guided Rupanyup to all three premierships and said the 1998 flag provided a sense of relief.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself,” he said.
“Back in 1993 I played for Swan Hill and we won every game but lost the grand final. In 1998 we were going in the same situation. Even back from 1993 that hurt still sits with me so it worried me to have that feeling again.”
Rupanyup came up against Kalkee in the final at City Oval in Horsham with a huge crowd watching.
The senior Rupanyup side ran through a banner that read, ‘1 was good, 2 was great, let’s make it 3 in ‘98’.
“The week leading up to the grand final people were down watching training and the committee was making the banner and it made the atmosphere even greater,” Brooks said.
“Kalkee had some quality footballers and we had the edge over them in the year but that means nothing come grand final day.
“They really pushed us and led for most of the day. I think we were down by about 12 points early in the final quarter. Things clicked and we ran over the top of the team to come away with a good win.
“I think Paul Morgan kicked 10 goals in the final and he was great in all three grand finals. It made your job a lot easier when you had a bloke like him running up forward.
“Once it sunk in and we realised we were premiers again, the three-peat talk floated around. Most guys had been involved with all three. We achieved a remarkable feat.”
Like any grand final, Brooks said there were some heated moments.
“I think the year before against Goroke was probably a lot more heated,” he said.
“Kalkee had their game plans to try and ruffle our feathers and it worked for a bit but we held our nerve and stuck to our guns.”
The Panthers secured the three-peat in what ended up being a 30-point win against Kalkee. In ‘97 they defeated Goroke by 24 points and in ‘96 they beat Natimuk by 34.
Brooks came into the coaching role in 1996 at just 23 years old. It was his first coaching role and he returned to Swan Hill after the ‘98 win.
He said his short time at Rupanyup was a fantastic experience, not only because of the on-field success.
“The club was so passionate about their sport,” he said.
“I remember I had been there for six weeks and hadn’t even played a game and I was sitting there talking to a few guys and it felt like I had been there my whole life.
“They welcomed you and no one thought they were better than anyone else. They treated everyone as equals.
“Hardly anyone knew me but whatever I said went and there was no talk against me or anything. Success wise I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my coaching career.”
A senior premiership unites a country football town like few other events. Brooks said to achieve three in a row was special for Rupanyup and the community.
“The night was huge at Rupanyup. There was a great feeling and the football club is the heart of a small country town,” he said.
“Everyone’s goal is to win a grand final but to win three was exciting. It was great reward for the commitment but we probably felt more relief.
“We were red-hot favourites and we were going for three in a row. When the final siren blew for me I felt relief.
“The main thing for the three years was the job was never left just up to a few. Everyone did their job.
“We had an ex-coach in Craig Turner who was great but everyone did their job and nearly everyone was local. There were a couple from Longy College but that was about it.”
This story starts a look at past grand finals for years ending in an ‘8’ during the upcoming football and netball finals series across the region.