WARRNAMBOOL and District should have been, to borrow from Prime Minister Tony Abbott, “dead, buried and cremated”.
Simon O’Keefe’s troops were almost five goals down with a quarter to play in their interleague clash against Colac and District at Central Reserve, Colac.
They’d mustered just 2.2 since quarter-time. They’d been wasteful going forward for an hour. A 25-point lead had become a 27-point deficit.
But they won. A 6.4 to 0.6 final quarter secured a 14.7 (91) to 12.12 (84) triumph which squared the ledger between the leagues at one-all.
This was one of the most remarkable interleague matches country Victoria offered on Saturday. Few mutual fans left disappointed.
Broken down, Warrnambool and District kicked six of the first eight goals, before Colac and District wrestled back momentum and booted 10 of the next 12
The hosts led 12.6 to 8.3 at three-quarter-time. They had the two dominant players on the ground by then in full-forward Christian Kelly and sidekick Ben Cox.
Cox had been particularly influential. He repeatedly outmuscled Jason Wilson early and had the better of his second opponent, Leatham Robe.
But there were others who excelled. Dean Scheetz, Adrian Murray and Sean O’Neill were on top across half-back, rebounding every time their opponents blazed away.
The onballers, led by Liam McGuane and Michael Davis, also lifted after being smashed at the clearances in the first quarter.
But then came the Warrnambool and District comeback, sparked when Chris Keilar roved a pack and snapped accurately five minutes into the last term.
Al Porter booted the next goal after collecting a kick-in, weaving between three opponents and dashing inside 50. Keilar rose again, marking a Luke Duncan pass and converting from 35 metres before Wilson did likewise from a free kick. The margin was back to one point.
Colac and District would have the next four scoring shots, but could only add four behinds as opportunities went begging.
James Keane made them pay moments later with an effort off the ground which would have made Socceroos coach Ange Postecolou proud.
Keilar sealed the win by kicking his fourth — and third of the last quarter — off one step after Keane won a ruck tap near the boundary.
Porter, a comfortable winner of the best-on-ground medal, and Keilar were among a host of Warrnambool and District players who had a key influence.
Sam Doukas was superb at full-back, either against Kelly or Karl McSparron, while Joe Higgins was prolific running out of defence in the first half.
Shamus O’Beirne showed off his trademark dash. Taylor McKenry found plenty of ball in midfield and Luke Duncan was strong at centre half-forward.
Josh Sobey was the most unheralded. Cox loomed as game-changing until Sobey went on to him and turned a mismatch on paper into a break-even result.
But representative pride has come at a cost for O’Keefe and Rhys Raymond, who picked up injuries which will impact their clubs.
O’Keefe hurt a quad muscle midway through the third term, while Raymond lasted less than 10 minutes and could miss this weekend with a calf complaint.
Scheetz was Colac and District’s best, along with Kelly (seven goals), Cox, McGuane and O’Neill. Robert Elborough also wound back the clock with style.