AN impromptu team meeting in a car park where coach Scott Carter urged his Warrnambool players to chase a piece of club history was the genesis for the Blues’ third premiership in four years.
If the lure of back-to-back Hampden league flags wasn’t powerful enough, Carter reminded his players on the morning after their second semi-final defeat to Koroit they should aim higher — for greatness.
“Without getting ahead of ourselves, we thought if we could win today we could elevate this era from a very good era in our footy club to a great era in our footy club,” Carter said after Warrnambool’s 37-point win over Koroit on Saturday.
“I think this era deserves to be known as that now.
“Three out of four flags, back-to-back and six consecutive grand finals, that is a great era.”
Carter said he left the meeting in the Action Fitness Centre car park confident his players wanted to seize an opportunity, despite a day earlier having lost to Koroit for the third time this season.
Six days later they hammered North Warrnambool Eagles by 70 points to set up another showdown with Koroit.
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On Saturday, seven days after that victory, despite being reduced to 19 fit players mid-way through the second term, they produced a grand final triumph.
In a coincidence, the final 37-point margin from Saturday’s 13.11 (89) to 6.16 (52) win was the same as last year when the Blues defeated Cobden.
“We had to dig really deep,” Carter said.
“You can never ever knock the character and spirit of our group and the honesty and togetherness within the group.
“They just find something every week for their teammates.
“A couple of older people around the club have said to me that’s one of the best wins in the history of our club.”
It wasn’t the only time Carter had planted the motivational seed.
It was first mentioned after the Blues were belted by Koroit in round 10 leading into a crunch game against Cobden.
“Once you are a great you can be happy, become happy first and you will not be a great,” Carter said.
Warrnambool has won 25 flags in the club’s history with this group’s three in four years the third-best streak.
The feat sits behind the four-in-a-row under coach Grant Thomas between 1986 and 1989 and a hat-trick between 1976 and 1978.
Koroit started hot favourite on Saturday. It had won 16 out of 19 matches this season; its three losses had been by a combined 24 points.
The Saints started the better. Jeremy Hausler was winning in the ruck, he was pushing forward and taking marks, captain Ben Goodall was getting plenty of the ball and Ben and Sam Dobson took seven marks between them in the first quarter.
Yet for all the effort, they led by just nine points at quarter-time having wasted chances in front of goal, kicking 3.5 to 2.2.
While Warrnambool centre half-forward Sam Cowling had matched the Dobsons with some powerful marks, the Blues looked to be in trouble with injury worries.
Koroit opened the second term with a behind but four minutes in Warrnambool teenager Jye Turland intercepted a kick-in and goaled. It sparked the Blues.
They kicked three more goals to make it four in 10 minutes and changed the game.
The last of them was sublime.
Travis Graham converted a set shot tucked in the right forward pocket kicking to the southern end from the tip of the 50-metre arc against the boundary line.
As the ball sailed through for a goal Blues midfielder Damien McCorkell suffered an accidental heavy hit to the head from teammate Angus Chirnside and left the ground.
Goodall marked a smart kick by Drew O’Grady into the corridor and kicked a steadying goal three minutes later before Turland volleyed his second at the 19-minute mark.
Warrnambool extended its 13-point half-time lead to 19 when skipper Jason Rowan used teammate Cowling as a step-ladder to mark and goal 107 seconds into the third term.
Then Hunt, who had spent the half-time break out the back of the changerooms attempting to kick and get feeling in his right leg, snapped a left-foot goal to restore the margin.
It was a body blow for Koroit. A bloke on one leg had broken its defence as the Blues’ midfielders led by veteran Josh Walters (11 possessions for the term) and its own back line kept pushing the ball forward.
Rowan kicked his fourth after taking another big contested mark at the top of the goal square as Cowling (18 possessions and 11 marks) was giving his opponent Daniel Harrington a hard time.
The Blues had the momentum at the last change — 25 points up. Koroit coach Adam Dowie made several positional moves as he tried to find a spark; he threw Ben Dobson into the middle in an attempt to give the defiant Goodall some support.
But four minutes in, Rowan produced an inspirational goal on the run from deep in the pocket to seal the result.
Walters was decisive with 34 possessions and a goal while Rowan finished with 5.3 from 14 kicks and 10 marks.
The Blues had winners on every line. Ruckman Andrew McCarthy (24 possessions and nine marks), wingman Brendan Moore (23 possessions), small forward Jye Turland (21 possessions and two goals), defenders Angus Chirnside (20 possessions), Tim O’Keeffe and Sam Wilson to name a few.
Koroit kicked three goals in the first quarter yet managed only three more in the next three quarters.
It was the Saints’ equal second-lowest number of goals in a match for the season behind its four in flood-like conditions in round 15 against Cobden.
Goodall with 34 possessions and two goals was a standout for Koroit while Isaac Templeton (29 possessions), Ben Dobson (27 possessions), Sam Dobson (22 possessions) and defender Chris McLaren (20 possessions) were its major ball-winners.