THE pain of a round 16 loss is driving North Warrnambool Eagles’ finals campaign.
Captain Laura Blackburn said the Eagles’ heart-breaking one-goal defeat to Portland in round 16 had stung her side, yet also had a positive impact.
“Just the way everyone felt, everyone was so devastated,” she said.
“I knew we weren’t going to lose again after feeling that way.”
The Eagles didn’t, winning their final two home-and-away games to finish fifth and set up an elimination final clash with another young side, Terang Mortlake, tomorrow at Koroit’s Victoria Park.
While the youthful Terang Mortlake side has been the talking point of the season, Blackburn said the Eagles would, on average, have a younger side than its opponent tomorrow. With centre Sophie Barr unavailable, Blackburn at 21 is the Eagles’ oldest player.
Blackburn, who took over the captain’s role from Jaime Barr at the start of the season, has relished the responsibility.
“When (coach) Sharon Kenna got up at the start of the year to announce the captain I was thinking ‘please let it be me’,” Blackburn said.
“I really wanted to do it.”
She said the Eagles had endured a roller-coaster season, with injuries and unavailabilities hurting the campaign.
The goal shooter said she and her teammates were always confident they could play finals but admitted they left their run late.
She said the form of teenagers Sarah Bullen at wing attack, Grace Chow either in centre or wing defence and Blackburn’s younger sister, goal attack Annie, had been impressive as the Eagles built.
An upset win against top-three side Port Fairy in round 15 had been the turning point for the Eagles, she said.
Blackburn expects Terang Mortlake to be fired up tomorrow after being defeated by the Seagulls last week.
“It will be tough but I would be really disappointed if we lost. They beat us the first time by one or two and then we beat them the second time.”
Blackburn said the Eagles had to be smart tomorrow and maintain possession — one of Terang Mortlake’s biggest strengths.
Terang Mortlake will start favourite and despite finishing the regular season with consecutive losses, it is in good form. The Bloods got within two of second-placed Camperdown and then went down to Port Fairy by five.
The Bloods will be better after last week, having regained midcourter Aimee Arundell from illness after several weeks out and defender Ailish Glennen, who had missed several games with an ankle injury.