NORTH Warrnambool Eagles’ first finals win took 15 years but the celebrations won’t match the gestation period.
The Eagles will be back training tonight, just 25 hours after the most significant win in the club’s history — a 15-point elimination final triumph over Koroit at Port Fairy’s Gardens Oval yesterday.
The 10.13 (73) to 8.10 (58) victory sets up a first semi-final showdown with Camperdown next Sunday.
Coach David Haynes, while delighted to advance beyond an elimination final for the first time in two attempts after last year’s heart-breaking one-point loss, said the Eagles had their sights on going deep into September.
“It’s taken a long time,” Haynes said of the historic outcome.
“It’s a good result. We needed to win a final for the long-time supporters and people who have stuck by us in the tough times. But from the playing group there is unfinished business.
“As much as we are stoked with the win and beating Koroit, an arch-rival, our focus has to switch to next week pretty quickly.”
That means training tonight, Wednesday and Friday.
One player unlikely to hit the track this week is lead-up forward Mathew Buck, who has a nervous wait. He will have scans today on his right knee after suffering a suspected anterior cruciate ligament injury early in the third term yesterday.
His injury was the only downside for the Eagles, who had opportunities to win by a bigger margin. Had Koroit seized some late shots at goal in the final term yesterday when the Eagles were tiring, the result would have been tighter than the final margin of 15 points.
The Eagles were in front for all but 72 seconds yesterday and that brief period came after Joe McLaren kicked the first goal of the match three minutes in.
The Eagles kicked three goals in six minutes, including two to the diminutive Jarryd Lewis and when Haynes kicked his second of the term at the 15-minute mark, they had opened a 19-point buffer despite kicking against a strong northerly wind.
Koroit captain Ben Goodall soccered a major at the 25-minute mark to give the Saints some hope but the Eagles’ speed and precise delivery into the forward line had cut holes in Koroit’s defence.
Haynes had plenty of space to lead into and fellow key forward Michael Darmody twice hit him with pinpoint passes.
At the other end, Koroit’s forward line was outpointed by the Eagles’ defenders, who were assisted by the Saints’ inability to bring the ball into attack with any system.
But Ben Dobson marked, received a 50-metre penalty and kicked the opening goal of the second term just 35 seconds in and the margin was back to eight points.
While both sides had chances, it took 11 minutes for Jeremy Parkinson to get some reward for the Eagles’ dominance. He kicked two goals in two minutes, one from a set shot and one on the run, to extend the margin to 23 points despite the wind dropping.
The teams traded goals but a Sam Dobson major after the siren kept the Saints within 16 points at the main break. But the margin should have been bigger, with the Eagles kicking 3.4 to 3.2.
The Eagles made up for the inaccuracy at the start of the third, with Tim Sheldon pouncing on a loose ball 35 seconds in and kicking a goal on the run before Parkinson kicked his third with a creative snap from a pack.
The margin was out to 28 points but Sam Dobson managed to goal for the Saints at the 13-minute mark. That ended the scoring as both sides whisked the ball from end to end with some free-flowing but wasteful footy. After nine minutes of what could only be described as missed opportunities, Sheldon kicked a goal to give the Eagles a 29-point edge at the last break.
As the sunny conditions started to take a toll, only Koroit kicked goals in the final term through Dave Pullen and Sam Dobson. Dobson’s third for the match at the 18-minute mark reduced the gap to 17 points and despite bombarding its forwards for the first time in the game, the Saints’ couldn’t find any other majors.
While the Eagles had a spread of contributors led by midfielders Andy McMeel, Liam Ryan, Xavier Mills, small forwards Lewis and Parkinson and defender Marcus Darmody, the Saints’ best was wingman Alex White, who capped a strong finish to the season with a fine performance. Midfielders Brett Harrington, Goodall and defender Dallas Mooney, who was moved on to Haynes after he kicked two first-term goals and kept the spearhead to just one more as he finished with 3.4, were the Saints’ best.