Nagambie has secured a place in the 2017 Kyabram District Football League grand final after grinding-out a 16-point win against Violet Town on Saturday.
Having lost to the Towners twice this season — by 33 points in round four and 90 points in round 17 — Nagambie went into the weekend’s semi-final as underdogs, and when the Towners got out to an early lead, those sitting on the outer might have expected another rout was in order.
‘‘We didn’t read too much into our previous performances against Violet Town this season,’’ Nagambie coach Linc Sullivan said.
‘‘On both occasions, neither side was at full strength.
‘‘But when we played on Saturday, with both sides at full strength, we provided them with a good contest and we got the result we wanted.’’
Sullivan was respectful of the Towners, who he said finished top for a reason, but was confident in his side’s ability having welcomed back several stars into its ranks.
Michael Shiels was superb for the Lakers, chipping in with a goal and earning the best-on-ground.
Michael Roberts, Danny Haysom, Anthony Haysom and Kyle Winter-Irving, who hadn’t played against Violet Town in the two sides’ previous matches this season, all proved to be irreplaceable in Sullivan’s starting 18.
‘‘They’re big influential players within our group who provide exactly what you want when you need it,’’ Sullivan said.
The Lakers trailed by 18 points early in the second quarter but Sullivan had felt no need for drastic changes at quarter-time.
Violet Town was economical and managed to convert nearly each time they went forward whereas the Lakers had to up their work rate defensively in their forward line.
‘‘When they went forward they managed to score whereas when we went forward they were able to run it out of our back line a bit,’’ Sullivan said.
Three quick goals in a fiery five-minute patch bought Sullivan’s men within a goal in the second quarter, and they trailed by just one point at half-time.
The Lakers snatched the lead with a goal early in the third quarter and won the inevitable tug of war as both sides vied for pole position.
‘‘Finals are never going to be a pretty game,’’ Sullivan said.
‘‘And as much as you want to make it a good spectacle, we don’t care so much as what it looks like as long as we’re winning.
‘‘We kept to our systems and structures, we kept grinding away at it.
‘‘We managed to outscore them in the third quarter and the game fell in our favour.’’
Nagambie edged ahead, kicking four goals to three, to lead by 13 points at three-quarter time.
From there Nagambie had to outlast its opponents in a desperate and physical final quarter.
‘‘They probably had a bit of the footy in the fourth quarter, but when we went forward we scored, and when they did they didn’t (score),’’ Sullivan said.
The Lakers got through by the skin of their teeth, winning by 16 points.
‘‘It probably wasn’t the kind of game people would have wished for, being a one versus two final, but that doesn’t concern us,’’ Sullivan said.
Nagambie can now look forward to a weekend off before facing the winner of this weekend’s preliminary final between Violet Town and Avenel.
The Lakers are suddenly looking their best with so much star quality back in their side.
They’re only likely to strengthen before the grand final, with Marty Shadbolt expected to be available for selection and the versatile Alex Tattersall still warming back into the side.