SOUTH Warrnambool coach Mat Buck can look forward to the Roosters’ next challenge after securing his first finals win in charge.
The Roosters’ 11.17 (83) to 6.7 (43) elimination final victory over Hampden league arch rival Warrnambool on Sunday was his first in September after taking on the role in 2016.
They finished eighth in his first year at the helm and suffered a straight sets finals exit 12 months ago.
“I was as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof before the game, I can tell you, but once we managed to get a bit of a lead I calmed down a little bit,” Buck said post-match at Koroit’s Victoria Park.
The Roosters held a nine-point lead after a low-scoring first half but kicked six goals to two after the main break to shake the Blues.
Inaccuracy in front of goal robbed them of a bigger victory.
High-profile midfielder-forward Josh Saunders showed his class with three goals in a best-on-ground display but an unassuming defender also played a key role.
Ben Dalton played on Warrnambool goal sneak Luke Cody, who returned from a serious hand injury, and kept the match-winner quiet.
“He did exceptionally well,” Buck said.
“Obviously Luke hasn’t played in a little while and was most likely underdone but I thought Ben was influential there and in other key contests he came off as well and supported his other back line members.”
Buck said ex-St Kilda footballer Saunders was built for finals.
“That was probably his best game for the footy club and on the big stage which is where he wants to be,” he said. “He could be a scary proposition going into the next few weeks with any luck because he’s set himself for it. He’s keen to put on a big show and hit the scoreboard.”
Warrnambool coach Matt O’Brien conceded the Blues were “gutted” and would take time to digest the result.
“We got beaten but didn’t play well so we’re sort of nursing two disappointments there,” he said.
“One is not playing well on the big day, the day you’ve been looking forward to, and then getting beaten in finals always hurts.
“In time we’ll pick the positives out of the season but today’s not the day. It’s the time to think about what went wrong today. There will be a lot of work to do between now and Christmas to get things right so we can go into next year ahead of where we started this year.”