WARRNAMBOOL Rangers are savouring grand final redemption after a thrilling overtime win in the Ballarat and District Soccer Association decider.
There was a sense of history repeating itself as the Rangers and Ballarat North United found themselves tied at the end of regular time on Saturday evening, forcing the game into an extra period.
But an Emily Whelan goal in the opening minute of overtime – her second for the day – gave the Rangers the edge as they claimed their first flag since the competition’s inaugural year in 2011.
Rangers captain Raya Rantall said after a bruising encounter, the early lead was a relief.
“It was such a tight game from then on,” she said.
“As soon as we got one up, that meant we could play a bit more defensively.”
Rantall said she “could not commend our defenders any more” for their efforts for the whole game, but especially when lethargy threatened to settle in for the extra period.
Legs started to cramp with the cold air and tiring match, while there were also injury concerns.
There were sore bodies aplenty and the Rangers lost striker Jen Smith in the first 10 minutes of the game with a hamstring complaint.
Defender Kelsey Reade struggled to run after another injury and Ashlee Gray was hurt in extra time.
But the Rangers pushed on, posting a gutsy win to turn the tables on the team that beat them in overtime in the 2015 grand final.
“It was more like a revenge victory – we got it back and made up for last year,” Rantall said.
“I can’t commend (coach) Jim (Gray) any more – he’s just amazing. He studied the other team really well and in the first half knew which players to shut down.”
Whelan was awarded best player of the match for her two-goal effort.
North United registered the only score before half-time but her first goal in the 71st minute was a win for persistence.
“The keeper actually saved it, but she didn’t give up, she kept running and then got it in,” Rantall said.