WAGGA Tigers withstood a late Leeton-Whitton surge to claim the Riverina League premiership in a four-point thriller at Robertson Oval on Sunday.
The siren sounded at exactly the right time for Tigers as the club returned to the top of the tree, 8.8 (56) to 7.10 (52) in wet conditions.
When Nick Ryan kicked the first goal of the final term at the 19 minute mark, Tigers appeared home, 16 points clear in a low-scoring tussle.
But with just two minutes left on the clock, the Crows made an unlikely charge with two goals in a minute through Lucas Meline and James Nancarrow.
Leeton-Whitton, whose last goal before that had been 59 seconds into the third quarter, suddenly had the momentum but ran out of time as the siren sounded with the ball again arriving at their forward 50.
It was a thrilling finish to an entertaining grand final, despite constant rain, that was played predominantly between both teams’ forward 50s.
The Crows started strongly to ensure the decider would be a contest and probably had chances to be in front at half-time despite Tigers going in five points up.
The lead changed eight times during the contest and it was only Tigers’ ability to convert a couple of chances that proved the difference.
For Tigers’ captain-coach Shaun Campbell, it was mission accomplished in his first season after moving from Melbourne.
“It feels unreal. A perfect end to a really good season from the boys so I couldn’t be happier,” Campbell said of his Tigers team that lost just one game all year.
“To do it in the first year, I’ve got a lot to live up to now.”
Campbell explained there was nothing special to his approach that took a young Tigers team from preliminary finalists to premiers.
“They were thereabouts, they just needed a bit of guidance on how to move the footy,” he said.
“They had the cattle, they just needed a bit of leadership and guidance on structures and different ways on how to move the footy and the best way to do it. Everyone is trying to do the same thing, it’s just whoever can do it more efficient.”
Campbell admitted he got a little nervous in the dying seconds.
“They were coming. They kept coming and coming,” he said.
“I just knew they hadn’t kicked many goals so the (quarter) couldn’t go much past 23 minutes so I was waiting and waiting and then bang she went.”
Shaun Flanigan was named best-on-ground for a terrific performance through the midfield. Campbell, John Anstee, Dale Walker and Jesse Manton were others to shine in another even team performance.