JARROD Holt felt a sense of unfinished business when he returned as Portland coach.
The inspirational leader was at the helm when the Tigers entered the Hampden league in 2013.
His second stint started in 2020 with a wiped out season due to COVID-19; the second was cut short when the Tigers were on the cusp of their first finals series.
Now, some 10 years after the club arrived in the competition, it has won a senior football final.
Holt's Tigers, courtesy of a three-goal five-minute burst finish to the third term which shrugged off a persistent Warrnambool, celebrated a long-awaited elimination final win at Port Fairy's Gardens Oval on Sunday.
The song was sung with gusto as players and fans celebrated the 17.18 (120) to 13.15 (93) victory.
Holt, who will now lead the Tigers in a first semi-final against South Warrnambool, said it was a special moment for the club.
"It felt like to me, to win a final would've felt like we've done something whereas if we had have lost we would've felt a little bit empty," he said.
"To be honest, when I came back to the job, my main thoughts were guys like Benny Malcolm, Daniel Jackson, Daniel Falcone - they had been through some tough times and I wanted better for them.
"I knew they could have better. It was through no fault of the previous coaches, just who we had, with players we couldn't hang onto many. We'd get good kids and they'd leave and we were young overall.
"We've been able to get a couple more mature players and hanging onto people for an extra year or two has really helped.
"It is, for me, why I am doing the job and to see some of those guys (long-time players) playing today, is a real thrill for us."
The game was a see-sawing battle. Key forwards - Tiger Tom Sharp and Blue Jason Rowan - kicked five goals apiece.
The lead changed hands on numerous occasions as the teams embraced warm conditions and dry deck.
Sam Cowling put Warrnambool in front late in the third term before a purple patch turned the game in Portland's favour.
Sharp, Sam Hampshire and Toby Jennings - on the siren - all kicked goals in quick succession to give the Tigers a 16-point buffer at the final change.
A lovely long range goal from Warrnambool's Paddy Anderson gave the Blues a chance early in the last but the Tigers rallied.
"I was confident we could win - our form hadn't been exceptional but over the past couple of weeks it got better against some good sides (like Koroit and South Warrnambool) - and we thought if we could run harder for longer, we could eventually break them," Holt said.
"There's a few things we didn't do that well but it's never a perfect game. I thought the guys stuck with the task and up to half-time, and it's not a surprise as Warrnambool have some more mature players, they were a bit steadier whereas we panicked a little bit."
Ben Malcolm was dominant in the ruck while midfield trio Lochie Huppatz, Daniel Jackson and Aaron Shepherd were important.
Teenager Charlie Harvey caught Holt's attention.
"He won a lot of the ball, is super quick and took the game on," he said.
"He was tough too - there were times where there was an awkward situation and he just put his head over it and contested it the air, won it and ran off."
Warrnambool coach Ben Parkinson said it hurt to lose an elimination final.
"You do so much work to get to the finals and then it's over and done," he said.
"I think we were in the game. I think we just gave the ball back too much coming out of our back line.
"We tried to switch when it wasn't on and they have a good set-up behind the ball once it gets into their forward line and it is difficult to penetrate through but some of the risks we took with the ball were horrendous."
The Blues controlled play for a large chunk of the third term but "couldn't score".
"We had 13 inside 50s to one (at one stage of the term) and kicked a couple out on the full, hit the post a couple of times," he said.
Parkinson was rapt to see the club's young trio - Ethan Boyd, Amon Radley and Reggie Mast - experience a senior final.
Mast, who had his own cheer-squad in the grandstand, took a screamer in the goal square late in the game.
"It was huge. He just sat," he said.
Tiger Tommy Haylock hyper-extended his knee, Josh Jenner copped a knock and Sam Hampshire had a groin issue but played out the game.
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