IT'S often senior heads who take the bull by the horns in pressure situations.
But for Warrnambool on Sunday, some of its youngest talents stood tall to fire the Blues to a coveted preliminary final.
Midfield dynamos Mitch Burgess and Mitch Bidmade slogged hard as Warrnambool fought through an extra time period to secure a memorable one-point triumph over Port Fairy.
Warrnambool hadn't led until a minor score from skipper Sam Cowling pushed it in front deep into extra time.
Emotions spilled at the final siren as the reality of a looming preliminary final against North Warrnambool Eagles sunk in.
A delighted Matt O'Brien, who lauded his men's effort in a passionate post-match debrief, hailed a host of Warrnambool youngsters.
He described Burgess' performance as "outstanding" and also reserved praise for Bidmade and Angus Lowe.
To win a final regardless is special. To do it in time on, after being behind all day... We only hit the front with that point. It's pretty special.Matt O'Brien
"(Mitch) Burgess is still in the under 18s and he's been our best player in two finals," O'Brien said.
"He was very clean with the ball when everybody else was a bit slippery.
"He was one of the few who could run and carry the ball for us. He was just outstanding."
Burgess (cramp), Bidmade (knee) and Jye Turland (exhaustion) all spent time off the ground but will play next week.
O'Brien described the 7.13 (55) to 7.12 (54) thriller as one of the finest victories of his coaching career.
"I'd have to go back and have a look but we haven't won a final for quite a while," the second-year coach said.
"To win a final regardless is special. To do it in time on, after being behind all day... We only hit the front with that point. It's pretty special."
Port Fairy burst out of the blocks and capitalised on its wind advantage early, booting five majors in the opening term.
But Warrnambool held the Seagulls scoreless in the second term and managed to snare goals against strong winds at Leura Oval's south end.
A muddy playing surface only worsened by hailstones and heavy rain in the third term created an all-out slog.
The Blues broke free in the final term and piled on three unanswered goals - with two from sharpshooter Luke Cody - to edge within points of Port Fairy.
Cowling's point deep in extra time broke Port Fairy hearts and added another year to its 61-season premiership drought.
Cody, who booted three majors in total, was lost for words post-match.
"It was unreal. The extra time, the point, everything - I was pretty emotional at the end," Cody said.
"To win a final here, it's what we play footy to do and we'll hopefully go on next week and win another one."
The former Narre Warren and Noble Park forward revealed the Blues' forwards implemented a different gameplan.
Seagulls coach Dan Nicholson lamented a lack of composure in the defeat.
"Early on, we lacked a bit of composure. It was raining, but there were times when we could slow it down and still be able to score," he said.
The 28-year-old, who clocked 32 games for Melbourne in a four-year AFL career, is committed to Port Fairy for next season but is unsure of his role.
"I'm unsure at this stage - I'll still be at the club, but whether or not I'll be coaching (isn't set)," Nicholson said.
"The club is not going to lose me. I'll still be there, I'll still be a coach, whether it's a head coach or if it's backing up someone like I've had with Winis (Imbi).
"He gave me great support this season. One way or another I'll be around."
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