KOROIT'S stranglehold on the Hampden league extended into a sixth season after the Saints' juggernaut held off North Warrnambool Eagles in a classic grand final on Saturday.
The Saints' coaching panel and supporters held their collective breath as Eagles veteran Ben Mugavin, who put in a herculean effort to win a best on ground medal, had a shot at goal to put his side in front with less than a minute to play.
The kick, with a wet, heavy ball, sprayed wide and the Saints were soon celebrating an emotional 9.9 (63) to 8.12 (60) victory at a rain-soaked Reid Oval.
For coach Chris McLaren, now a three-time premiership mentor, it was a relief followed by an overwhelming sense of pride in his team's never-say-die attitude.
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Koroit was 17 points up at quarter-time and 20 clear at the main break and it appeared destined to waltz to a sixth straight premiership.
North Warrnambool Eagles had other ideas and, led by Mugavin in attack, clawed back within 11 points at the final break.
From there the game was on a knife edge. Every play took on extra significance.
Former AFL player Billie Smedts put the Eagles within six points when he soccered through a goal.
Dynamic Saint Will Couch responded with a soccer shot of his own to give his team some breathing space.
He slotted the long-range goal and suddenly the Eagles were within three points in the dying stages. Mugavin's shot missed before Sam Dobson took a saving mark in defence to all but seal victory.
"Today it was trust the work we've put in, trust our confidence, trust our planning, trust we're a good team," McLaren said.
"At no stage do we ever doubt what we're doing regardless of the situation."
McLaren, who revealed key forward Jarrod Korewha played with a broken shoulder blade, backed his players in the tight finish but conceded he was nervous.
"It was very stressful. I said to the boys on the bench 'this is it, we win or lose right here'," he said.
"It is a flip of the coin isn't it? And I guess our boys' desire and will and refusal to lose just gave us that extra half a per cent which got us over the line.
"I am very proud of what we've been able to deliver back to the community."
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