PORT Fairy celebrated its first piece of senior football silverware since 1958 when it won the pre-season cup competition on Saturday but the triumph won’t change coach Sam Rudolph’s expectations for the season ahead.
The Seagulls produced a come-from-behind win in the grand final of the round-robin tournament, defeating Terang Mortlake by four points, 3.5 (23) to 3.1 (19).
Robbie Hare, who stood out of the game for 12 months to cross from Port Fairy to Terang only to return to the Seagulls earlier this year, was the hero.
He kicked 3.1 for the Seagulls as they surged to victory in the second half of the match at the Friendly Societies’ Park, including the match-winner with two-and-a-half minutes left on the clock.
The Seagulls’ faithful lapped up the sight of the gold cup and $4000 prizemoney when they were presented indoors by league president Hugh Worrall.
The club’s last senior trophy was the 1958 premiership. Since then the club has only had two reserves flag (1982 and 1994) and one thirds flag in 1989.
A delighted Rudolph said the result wouldn’t change his goals as he enters the second year at the helm but the triumph was an important stepping stone for the club.
“It’s exciting for the club because it has been success-starved,” he said.
“To win something like this is good.”
He said his players would take confidence from the win into round one of the premiership season.
He said the pre-season was about getting as much game time into his squad so they were prepared for the start of a tough campaign.
“We are going to have a crack all year regardless of positions,” he said.
“If we want to take anything out of the game, I think our work rate was very good.”
Rudolph said his side’s strong finish in Saturday’s final didn’t surprise him after he lost the coin toss and Terang Mortlake kicked 3.0 to 0.2 with the aid of a howling westerly wind.
Port Fairy outgunned the Bloods early in the first half before Terang Mortlake started to use the wind with long kicking. Both sides had six inside 50-metre entries for the half before the Seagulls outworked the Bloods in the second half, bombing the ball forward 11 times to four after winning the centre clearances 3-1.
The Seagulls unveiled a host of new faces in the round-robin tournament, including Geelong’s VFL side vice-captain Jackson Hollmer, former Collingwood AFL player Jaxson Barham, former amateur best and fairest winner Aaron Shields, dual Panmure premiership player Gary Robinson at full-forward and Northern Territory recruit Lloyd Stockman.
While Hollmer, Barham and Shields were prominent early in the grand final, it was players like Hare, Ash Rendell, Adam McCosh and Aidan Leishman who provided the spark.
Rudolph was delighted he had been able to rotate as many as eight under 18½ players through the side during his team’s two preliminary matches.
He said the Seagulls had worked hard on their structures and set-plays over summer and he was pleased at the improvement in those areas.
Terang Mortlake coach Matthew Irving said while the Bloods would have loved to win, he was pleased 34 players had got valuable match practice.
“The big thing was to get some game time into some blokes and it was important we put what we did over summer into practice,” Irving said.
He said his playing group would take confidence from the outing into the premiership season, especially after winning both its early matches.
“We haven’t beaten Warrnambool in any competition since 2009 so just to play well against a quality side like Warrnambool was good.”
The Bloods missed up to a dozen of their senior players in the final, including key forwards Chris Bant and Stephen Staunton.
“We had our chances in the second half but Port Fairy was pretty resilient,” he said.