North Wagga players were told to hold their heads high after the preliminary final loss to the Hawks, with co-coach Chad Hamblin believing they’d just run into the best team in the league.
“East Wagga… I reckon they’ll win by five or six goals,” Hamblin said.
“They’re just a very well-rounded side.
“So are The Rock, but I just think East Wagga, they won't drop again.”
A comeback looked impossible early in the third term, when East Wagga-Kooringal extended a 24-point lead at halftime out to 37 points with two quick goals.
The Saints then held the Hawks to two behinds for almost a quarter but – in a familiar story – managed only two points themselves.
Hamblin said failing to make the most of momentum has been their curse this year but on this occasion it wasn’t entirely self-inflicted.
“Their backline is very under-rated, they rebound very well,” he said.
“I think their backline is just as big a strength as their forward line.”
Chris Willis kicked three goals in a quarter-and-a-half but when his impact was reduced by the Hawks’ defence, North Wagga sent Troy Curtis forward.
“We had to really attack and take risks,” said Hamblin.
“I’d prefer to go down fighting than just defending.”
Despite the best efforts of incoming coach Kirk Hamblin, the Saints missed the speed and explosiveness of Corey Watt in the middle.
With EWK winning the ball out of the centre, Hamblin paid tribute to Brayden Skeers’ job on Marc Geppert – his third big assignment in as many weeks –and fellow defender Angus McRae.