A CHANGE of club song would be appropriate for North Warrnambool Eagles.
Instead of the players belting out their traditional Good Ol’ North Warrnambool to the tune of AFL club North Melbourne’s song after they defeated South Warrnambool on Saturday, Port Adelaide’s ‘there’s history here in the making’ would have been more apt.
For the first time in the club’s 15-year existence, the Eagles are third on the ladder. For the first time they have won five consecutive games — the most any side has managed this season.
Their 13.13 (91) to 11.10 (76) triumph was achieved against another finals contender in windy and heavy conditions at Bushfield Recreation Reserve.
But it was far from attractive. The mud-spattered face of Eagles midfielder Dean Gavin after the game told the story.
Coach David Haynes said as much.
“It doesn’t have to be pretty,” he said.
“But you still have to get the job done.”
The Eagles did what they set out to do — win the four points and increase their chances of making the club’s second finals series since it joined the Hampden league in 1997.
It might sit third but it is only percentage ahead of three other sides with two matches remaining. Anything could happen.
“We’ve got to keep winning,” Haynes stressed after the game, conscious of not letting his side get carried away with its late-season surge.
“We play Koroit next and we haven’t beaten them. It’s a pretty huge game for us.
“If we want to play finals we have to keep winning. There is no reason we can’t.”
The Eagles led for all but three minutes and 54 seconds of Saturday’s game. After South kicked the first goal of the match at the seven-minute mark, the Eagles through Xavier Mills took the lead and never relinquished it.
They led by seven points at quarter-time after kicking with a four-goal wind but extended it to 15. Their small men Jarryd Lewis, Jeremy Parkinson and Matt Brophy kicked goals on the run against the trend in the first 12 minutes, after South’s full-forward Kym Eagleson and coach Matthew Peake had goaled.
But when Eagles ruckman Jordan Dillon hobbled from the ground with a left knee injury 16 minutes into the second term, the Roosters worked their way back into the contest, with comeback kid Jason Bourke kicking a goal at the 25-minute mark to cut the margin to seven points at the main break.
Without Dillon, who tried to play but lasted less than 90 seconds in the third term, the Eagles kicked 4.3 to 1.2 to open a 27-point buffer at the 24-minute mark of the third term.
A late goal to South Warrnambool’s Scott Maddern, his second, two minutes later had the Roosters in touch at the last break.
When Maddern snapped a goal just 16 seconds into the final term and the Roosters received a free kick in the centre without the ball being bounced, the momentum had swung in their favour. Eagleson converted a long set shot, before Peake grabbed the crumbs from a marking contest in the goal square to kick another and within seven minutes they had reduced the gap to just four points.
Eagles key forward Michael Darmody produced a left-foot snap goal four minutes later to give the home side some breathing space, before Josh Parkinson and Darmody both goaled to seemingly seal the victory.
Eagleson kicked his third a minute later, before the Roosters squandered two gettable opportunities, with Eagles key defender Brendan Murfett, who had to be swung into the ruck to cover Dillon’s absence, taking a goal-saving mark on the line.
The Eagles had significant players on every line. Murfett did well in defence and in the ruck, teenage defender Mitch Bowman was impressive, Andy McMeel (32 possessions and eight marks) was lively in the midfield along with vice-captain Matthew Wines (26 possessions, five marks and 10 tackles), while Jeremy Parkinson with 4.2 was the leading forward on the ground.
Eagles statistician Scott Buck highlighted Parkinson’s efficiency, his tally coming from 12 possessions. Eagles spiritual leader Liam Ryan had 21 possessions across half-back in an impressive game that also included 20 “one percenters” and five tackles.
The Roosters, who dropped to fifth on the ladder, were well served by defender Sam Thompson, who kept Haynes to 1.1, and midfielder Brad Miller, who worked tirelessly to create opportunities and finished with 1.2 when venturing forward.
Bourke, in his first senior game this season after playing just two in the reserves, would have warmed the hearts of Roosters’ supporters with a couple of strong contested marks before tiring in the second half.
Another returnee, key defender Pat Smith, was a good contributor and is looming as a key player in the run home.
South Warrnambool, which faces sixth-placed Cobden on Saturday, expects to regain marking forward Sam Kelly from a hamstring injury and North Ballarat Roosters’ midfielder Zac Struth for what could become an elimination final.