PORT Fairy's upset win over North Warrnambool Eagles confirmed the processes Dan Nicholson and his coaching panel have put in place are starting to stand up to finals contenders.
The Seagulls, who were without their playing coach and a number of regular starters, controlled most of Saturday's encounter before kicking away in the final moments of the 6.16 (52) to 6.7 (43) victory.
"It's great not because they were undefeated but because it was a four-quarter effort," Nicholson said.
Port Fairy has been close to a number of the sides above it in recent weeks, including a four-point loss to Warrnambool in round 15.
But defeating the ladder leader proved to Nicholson his side is on the right track ahead of another finals test against arch rival Koroit in the penultimate round before a final-round date with Hamilton Kangaroos.
"It's a bit of an accumulation of getting used to a new game style but also getting that continuity and getting a few players back through the group," he said.
"We've still got six to eight blokes that are starters to come back. We'll get some back from overseas, a couple from holidays and a couple from injuries.
"It's all coming together at the right end of the season and we've got a pretty good run into finals. We've got those tougher teams that set us up and get us going leading into the first final."
Eagles coach Adam Dowie heaped praise on the Seagulls, who dominated most of the game kicking 15 straight behinds from the end of the first term to the midway point of the last to keep North in the contest.
"Port Fairy outplayed us," he said. "If you look at the scoring shots and inside 50s the best team won.
"To be honest the first time we played them (in round seven) they were the best team there for a lot of the day."
Dowie said the loss released pressure on his troops, who were looking likely of heading into the finals without a slip up.
"Going into a finals, especially coming from where we were last year, unbeaten is a pressure you don't need," he said.
"We tried to convince the players to keep winning but in the back of my mind and theirs a loss wouldn't be the worst thing to happen.
"Even the way it happened was good because we were in front and then we were behind a lot. The shoe has been on the other foot a bit this year so the boys are disappointed but it's encouraging in terms of next week."
The Eagles are six points clear of second-placed Koroit and need one win against the Kangaroos or South Warrnambool to secure top spot.
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