FIRST-time Koroit premiership player Tom Baulch says the club helped him during a testing year off the field.
The teenage footballer, who played with poise beyond his years in the Saints' back line in their grand final win, lost his father Clinton suddenly in March.
Baulch, 18, said the Saints had rallied around him and provided unwavering support.
"I couldn't be more happy with the club and what they've done for me," he told The Standard after Koroit's 16-point win over Hampden league rival North Warrnambool Eagles on Saturday.
"They have been there for me with my old man (passing away). It means a lot to me to win this and do it for him as well as my mum (Jacque), sister (Indi) and the rest of my family.
"The footy club has helped me a lot, especially this year. It is a massive extended family."
Koroit coach Chris McLaren praised Baulch's resilience.
"That is why footy clubs are so bloody great, to rally around the Baulch family like that," he said.
"What Tom's done this year, losing his dad just before round one and being able to play round one and not miss a beat and contribute again today, he's an unbelievably resilient kid and I am super proud of him."
McLaren said he was emotional post-game as he reflected on his friend's impact.
"Clint was an enormous part of our footy club and a great person," he said.
"It got me a little bit after the game to be honest.
"He was a terrific dear friend of mine and he's very, very sadly missed and we love him."
Baulch, who works on a farm at Illowa, said it was humbling to be a part of Koroit history.
He was one of nine players who became first-time premiership players for the club, which is celebrating seven flags in a row.
"It's a pretty amazing feeling. It's one of those things you know you can do but sort of seems so far away all the time," Baulch said.
"When the siren went, it was just surreal."
The former Emmanuel College student soaked up the win with long-time friends.
"To win one with Mac (Petersen) and Paddy (O'Sullivan) - we're all really tight - but they are your best mates and you play footy with them pretty much your whole life and go to school with them," he said.
"And you talk about it (winning a grand final) all the time and to actually get it done was pretty amazing."
McLaren said the trio was "as thick as thieves" and played "enormous" roles in the victory.
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