TIMBOON Demons will endure few matches as nerve-racking as their breakthrough triumph against East Warrnambool.
They led all day, by as much as 23 points one minute into the last quarter. Yet they only just got out of jail at Timboon Recreation Reserve.
The 11.7 (73) to 10.7 (67) win was the Demons’ first for the season and came after four enthralling, see-sawing quarters of football.
The skill level and execution was what one would expect of a match between eighth and 11th in the Warrnambool and District league.
But the intensity suggested much more was on the line. The players’ endeavour and effort was unquestionable. The will to win was palpable.
Timboon Demons won because they held sway for longer periods, most evident at the back end of the second quarter when they added 3.2 to 0.0.
They also kicked goals at crucial stages — a common trait among football sides which prevail in tight matches.
The first “big moment” came seconds into the last quarter, when Dylan Cahill snapped truly from a stoppage to put the hosts up 10.7 to 7.2.
East Warrnambool would reply through Ben Gray and were within nine points when Peter Shepherd marked a Tyronne Grayson pass and goaled.
The visitors had regained control and were charging. But their next five scores were behinds as 9.2 became 9.7 and opportunities went begging.
In between, and 15 minutes into the last term, came the second “big moment” and again finished with Cahill kicking truly. Fifteen-year-old Ryan Smith found space on the wing and passed to Tom Hunt near the boundary. Hunt in turn found Cahill alone in the forward 50.
As Timboon Demons’ heroics unfolded at the southern end, a similarly match-defining moment was going on more than 100 metres away.
East Warrnambool livewire Blake Rudland-Castles, a standout all afternoon, was writhing in pain with a potentially serious knee injury.
Trainers carried the teen off on a stretcher and he finished in hospital. The Bombers sorely missed his influence in the dying stages.
Paul Butters cut the margin to seven points with a running goal on 31 minutes. But the Demons held on during a frantic final four minutes.
Cahill fittingly had the ball when the siren sounded. He was one of the Demons’ best after half-time but far from the only one.
Sam Newey (two goals) was exceptional around the ground and Alex Lee belied his inexperience to take mark after mark at centre half-forward.
Brendan Hickey and Andrew Blake were the pick of the defenders. Sean Giles was also handy finding the ball on the outside of packs.
The Demons also had the dominant big man on the ground in Marcus Hickey, who had the bulk of their 66 stoppage taps and kicked a goal.
“In a contest where it is a bit of an arm wrestle, just metreage at times is an advantage in itself,” playing coach Brendan Hickey said.
Hickey said the result was “very pleasing and a relief in some sense to get the monkey off the back”.
“It certainly puts belief in, it reinforces some of the plans we’ve worked on all season. If we can stick to them, we can actually get a result,” he said.
“That’s the number one thing we can get from it, it lifts morale. You’d say Tuesday night you’ll have an extra six or eight players there on the back of a win.”
For the Bombers, the excellent Rudland-Castles, Shepherd and Hayden Laird kicked two goals each. Laird was particularly lively early in the match.
Kevin Moloney played his best match of the season, spending large chunks in the ruck after Jordan Collins went off with a leg injury.
Tom Hopkins, Jonah Hughson, Simon Tindall and Luke Rudland-Castles also contributed well while Chris Edwards was prominent in the midfield.
“It’s one of those things, there was a game there to be won and we mucked it up,” East Warrnambool playing coach Paul Butters said.