OLD Collegians’ reserves footballers showed nerves of steel to prevail in a low-scoring battle and break a 12-year premiership drought.
The Warriors defeated Merrivale 4.8 (32) to 3.7 (25) in a game that went a half without either side managing to kick a goal.
Opportunities were limited and scoring shots came from tough angles as both teams’ defences stood tall on the grand final stage of Reid Oval.
It took until the eighth minute of the third term for someone to break the deadlock, with Matthew Petherick kicking the first of his two goals to give the Warriors – who lead 0.7 to 0.2 at half-time – a handy 11-point lead.
But Merrivale dug in and fought back, never going away.
A Kyden Jarvis goal saw the Tigers draw within a point late in the final term, but Warriors coach Mathew Neal sealed the win with a goal just before the final siren, securing a seven-point victory.
“(Merrivale) has always been a club to come back and fight hard, and they’ve had plenty of grand final experience and they know what they’re about,” Neal said. “So we knew they weren’t going roll over easy.
“It was a relief when that siren blew, I didn’t know which way it was going to go.
“We fought from the beginning right through to the end. Even when they came back at us towards the end, it was really good character for us to fight right to the end.
“For this group, (to win is) unreal. For the club, the last reserves premiership was 2005 … (to win) means a lot.”
Warriors pair Joe Kenna and Tim Edwards were named best on ground, winning the Michael Dawson and media medals respectively.
Neal lauded the contribution of the pair, who led the way in a game that demanded players dig deep.
“Joey played real well – he played a lot of senior games throughout the year and probably just got dropped out of the seniors about two weeks before the finals,” the coach said.
“It just shows his character to stand up and not drop his head, just to carry on as he did and to play the game that he did was unreal.
“He just brings a bit of strength around the ball and on-ball, he can go forward, he can go back – he’s just one of those utility players that can play and do a role wherever he’s picked.
“Timmy Edwards … with his pace, and he can read the ball and play at the back of the packs and he’s been valuable to us throughout the year and had a blinder today as well.”