Before the opening bounce of the 2001 Horsham District grand final the Panthers gathered in a circle.
It was September 15, 2001, just a year after the team lost to Kalkee in the previous year's decider.
Now they were getting ready to face the same side, but something was different.
"I just remember we made this pact to finish the job we started," Rupanyup's then player-coach Peter Cashin said.
"We had a circle, a chain, and there was a gap in a circle and that was one player who wasn't there, who should have been there, and that was Richie.
"The only thing that would fill that gap would be the cup."
Richard 'Richie' Dunlop was a larger than life figure at the Rupanyup Football Netball Club.
A talented player, he was a big part of the Rupanyup's success in the nineties which included premierships in 1990, 96, 97 and 98.
In 1998 he even graced the back page of the Mail-Times after kicking 20 goals in two weeks.
"He was an integral player," Cashin said.
The day before the Panthers lined up against Harrow-Balmoral to play for a place in the grand final Richie passed away, a week after suffering a stroke. He was 31.
"It rocked everybody," Cashin said.
"Losing Richie, was a tough time for us all," Rupanyup premiership player, and current president, Rod Weidemann said.
Driven by emotion by the loss, the Panthers made it to the grand final but were dispatched by Kalkee in a wet and windy affair at City Oval.
They were a really physical side, talented and physical.Tony Cashin
"We probably overachieved a bit that year," Cashin said.
"We were probably only the third best side in it really, a lot of emotion got us there... but we were shot by that game."
The Panthers resolved to finish the job in 2001, and recruited well in the off season.
The result was "a pretty complete team" according to Weidemann.
"If I look back through all the teams I've been lucky enough to play in, it's one of the better ones," he said.
At the end of the game, we got the cup, completed the circle and sung the song.Tony Cashin
The new additions invigorated a team bonded by tragedy, and spurred Rupanyup on in 2001.
"We had a pretty good team, it was just a matter of playing to our potential. If we played anywhere near our potential, we knew it was our game," Weidemann said.
The loss of Dunlop hung heavy on a team determined to win the flag to honor their late teammate.
"It gelled the group a bit more together, knowing we didn't have him," recalled Weidemann.
"It provided a lot of impetus for the year... that was probably what motivated a lot of people to perform well," Cashin said.
"It was never mentioned, but it was at the forefront of everyone's mind."
The Panthers went through the season undefeated, but redemption was never a sure thing.
Kalkee were hunting a league-record 11th HDFL premiership.
They had a strong team, led by coach and triple league medallist Scott Batchelor, although Batchelor was injured during the finals series and did not play in the grand final.
"We had a really good rivalry, a fierce rivalry," Cashin said.
"They were a really physical side, talented and physical... every time you play Kalkee it's a hard fought game."
I was lucky enough to kick the first goalRod Weidemann
To make matters worse, Rupanyup captain and defensive lynchpin, Mark Sudholz, had a broken foot.
"We had to keep that pretty quiet," Cashin recalls.
"He was our leader, we had to have him playing".
Sudholz managed to play three-quarters and "couldn't walk in the last," Cashin said.
But the team that gathered in that fateful circle before the grand final shot out of the blocks, kicking the first five goals of the match.
"I was lucky enough to kick the first," Weidemann said.
The Panthers rushed to a four-goal lead at the first break and didn't look back, with star forward Paul Morgan leading the way with seven goals, while Adam Richardson and Tim Webb dominated in the middle.
It was a team effort a chain without a weak link.
After the presentation ceremony, Weidemann's brother Andrew, then-club president and one of the side's two ruckmen, presented his premiership medallion to Dunlop's mother Lois in a touching gesture.
The elder Weidemann had only played on in 2001 to win a premiership for his late teammate and childhood friend.
"Not that anything can bring someone back, but I suppose it just helped," Rod Weidemann said.
"At the end of the game, we got the cup, completed the circle and sung the song," recalled Cashin, who said amidst the celebrations the thing he felt most was relief.
'It was just completing the job," he said.
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