THE celebrations for Warrnambool’s second premiership in three years had barely begun when coach Scott Carter declared there was more to come from his playing group.
In an ominous warning for rivals, Carter said three quarters of the triumphant Blues that crushed Cobden’s hopes of a meteoric premiership on Saturday were yet to reach their peak.
Speaking after the Blues’ 15.13 (103) to 10.6 (66) victory at Reid Oval, Carter said Warrnambool’s second premiership in three years was a good reward from five consecutive grand final appearances.
“I don’t think we have gone into any of the previous four grand finals as clear-cut favourite,” he said.
“But I thought we had to win today to get our just rewards.
“We’ll enjoy this one but we are already moving into next season and have been for some time. We will be looking to retain the majority of our players and we are pretty confident with the quality of juniors coming through.
“It was fantastic to see six boys who played in our under 18 premiership last year play in a senior grand final.
“I wouldn’t say we have reached the pinnacle of our ability as a group. With natural attrition you probably lose three or four players. Apart from (Paul) Looney, (Josh) Walters and Dusty (McCorkell), we have got a couple around the 27 age group and then the rest are between 23 down to 16.”
The Blues’ under 18s were defeated by Terang Mortlake on Saturday, while their under 16s were premiers last month, heightening expectations of more exciting talent to come.
To put Warrnambool’s triumph into context, it won 16 out of 20 matches, with three of its four losses totalling just 27 points. In 2010, in a year it dominated, the Blues lost three and drew one en route to the flag.
“We have a fair few detractors. A lot of people like to throw knives at us but it’s probably time a few people gave us credit. Five grand finals in succession, two out of three flags, home-grown talent. It’s been a fantastic achievement.”
It was a similar story in the Cobden change room, where despite tears from some young players, coach Wayne Robertson and the club’s huge following were positive about next year.
The Baby Bombers had just three players 24 or older on Saturday and 10 were aged between 16 and 19.
“We got four games of finals football into a lot of kids,” Robertson said.
“I’m extremely proud of the group. A lot of our supporters are extremely proud. It’s been a pretty good ride. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
“We will come back stronger next year.”
After Warrnambool premiership player Aidan Cole kicked the opening goal for Cobden inside the first two minutes of the match, the Blues dominated. They kicked 6.4 to nil in an 18-minute period which saw ruckman Rob Bright outpoint his dual Maskell Medal-winning opponent Levi Dare in aerial contests and on the ground. With midfielders Tim Hunt (eight) and Brendan Moore (six) getting plenty of possessions, centre half-forward Travis Graham and full-forward Jason Rowan were given plenty of opportunities.
Graham was the standout. He had eight kicks, took five marks and kicked 2.2 in the opening quarter while Rowan kicked 2.2 from four kicks and three marks as the Blues took a 34-point lead to the first change.
In an extraordinary momentum swing, Cobden, kicking with the aid of a two-goal north-easterly wind to the city-end goals, booted 4.2 to nil in the first 13 minutes of the second quarter. Levi Dare bombed a goal from outside the 50-metre arc before he got on top in the ruck. With captain Paul Foster racking up possessions, it was the Bombers’ key forwards’ chance to star.
Tim Horan (one) and Aidan Cole (two goals) were on target as the big Cobden following roared into full voice.
Against the trend at the 14-minute mark Rowan produced a sublime left-foot snap from deep in the left forward pocket to settle the Blues. It was the final goal of the term but it helped Warrnambool nullify the Bombers, going into half-time with an 18-point buffer.
The Bombers swung Aidan Cole from deep forward to a loose man in defence and then brought vice-captain Paul Hinkley from full-back on Rowan to full-forward at the start of the third term.
But the Blues kicked three goals in the first four minutes, first through Damien McCorkell 55 seconds into the term, then Dustin McCorkell and Sam Cowling, who had been swung from defence to match up on Cole, marked and goaled as the Blues kicked the gap out to six goals.
Levi Dare snapped a goal two minutes later but then the Blues kicked 3.0 to 0.1 to kill off the contest, taking a 49-point lead at three-quarter-time.
Josh Walters, Moore, Liam “Senior” Hoy, Hunt, Graham and Brad Bull, were the driving force for the Blues.
The final term started with the sides exchanging goals before the Bombers through Levi Dare, Joe Dare and Mick Salmon kicked three goals in eight minutes to cut the margin to 30 points. Walters, Hunt, Moore, Darcy and Travis Graham steadied the Blues and Jackson Bell sealed the result with a set shot from the top of the goal square 19 minutes in.
Hunt and the fast-finishing Walters each finished with 31 possessions for the match while Moore (27), defender Angus Chirnside, wingman Darcy Graham (23) and Liam “Senior” Hoy (20) were prominent.
For the Bombers, Foster was a standout with 29 possessions, Levi Dare (27), Greg Tongs (27) and Joe Dare (21).