PORTLAND is one win away from marking its historic Hampden league debut season with an under 18½ premiership.
The Tiger cubs carry the former Western Border league club’s flag hopes after winning through to Saturday week’s decider.
It is the last Portland side standing.
Portland coach Tim Chester said his talent-laden teenage team had the support of the club as it strived to make Hampden league history.
“Our under 18 numbers are really good but a lot of senior boys are training with us still,” he said.
“There is a great feeling around the club and to cap it off with a win would be fantastic.
“There is pressure on us. Hopefully the boys can do it for four more quarters.”
If the Tigers, who will play either Hamilton Kangaroos or Terang Mortlake in the grand final, win the flag it will mark a remarkable double.
Portland defeated the now-merged Hamilton Imperials in the Western Border under 18 grand final last season.
“Last year’s grand final was an absolute cracker,” Chester said. “They were 15 points up with five minutes to go and we kicked three goals in a row to snatch it.”
Portland booked its Hampden league grand final spot with a 29-point second semi-final win against Hamilton Kangaroos — a side boasting many players from last year’s Western Border league showdown — on Saturday.
Hamilton Kangaroos’ first Hampden league campaign was rewarded with the minor premiership.
Their preliminary final opponent — defending premier Terang Mortlake — has come from fifth.
Chester said Portland took time to settle into its new competition.
A loss to North Warrnambool Eagles in round seven proved the turning point.
“Everyone is pretty proud of what we have achieved so far,” Chester said.
“We were unsure of where we’d sit as a club at the start of the year and our under 18s lost two of our first three games and thought we might be a mid-range team.
“We reassessed it halfway through and thought we could match it.”
Chester said the Tigers’ forward line entries were wasteful early and the wins started to flow once that was rectified.
“We had to change our game style a bit but as the year has gone on we have gotten a lot better,” he said.
“Hampden clubs put a lot more numbers behind the ball so our skill level has had to improve.”
Chester said he’d played 40 juniors through the under 18½ team this season.
Hamish Withers (14 senior games), Jake Hawker (12), Jordan Kane (12), Jay Moody (10), Mitch Bunworth (7), Tom Templeton (5), Daniel Jackson (3) and Rowan Marshall (2) all played top-grade football.
Chester said the Tigers’ depth gave him selection dilemmas.
“A lot of guys this year played a lot of footy and have missed finals,” he said. “It’s disappointing — I’d love to have an unlimited bench.”