AN EXTREMELY difficult decision by Wagga Tigers paid the ultimate dividend at Robertson Oval on Sunday.
Twelve months ago, Tigers president Scott Bance and his committee made the somewhat unpopular decision not to reappoint Matt Rava as captain-coach, following a close preliminary final loss to eventual premiers, Collingullie-Glenfield Park.
Rava had done nothing wrong but Tigers decided to head in a new direction and appoint an untried option in former Ainslie player Shaun Campbell.
The rest now is history as Campbell led Tigers to a four-point grand final victory over Leeton-Whitton, 8.8 (56) to 7.10 (52).
Bance was over the moon as Tigers captured their 10th Riverina League flag, and their first since 2007.
“Sensational. Historically, we’re overdue,” Bance said.
“We’ve been hanging around, we’ve been third and fourth and as you know, we made a pretty tough decision last year.”
Bance revealed many Tigers players struggled to comprehend the club’s decision at the time.
“Some of the players struggled to deal with it initially,” he said.
“But once Shaun arrived things just changed and he’s been fantastic.
“He’s done absolutely everything we wanted to do, lead from the front. We’ve got a really good bunch of kids and they needed some leadership and they identified that last year in the prelim.”
One of Campbell’s biggest attraction was his connection to Canberra.
Shortly after his appointment, Tigers signed Dale Walker, Rub Tuohey and Jesse Manton as travellers and all three played pivotal roles in the club’s success.
“With Rob (Tuohey) and Dale (Walker), they were here watching (last year’s preliminary final) and they said these boys just need a hand,” Bance said.
“They wanted to jump the fence and give them a hand then. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
What makes Tigers’ success so sweet is that 15 members of the premiership team are Tigers juniors.
“It’s massive. It’s very satisfying from a club point of view to see these kids come right through,” Bance said.
“Some of them started when they were four years of age and to come through and play first grade and win a flag, it’s great.
“I couldn’t be happier. It’s absolutely fantastic.”
Bance paid tribute to Leeton-Whitton for their effort and throwing ‘absolutely everything’ at his team.
He said the future is bright at Tigers.
“There’s probably a few that will move on with uni and things like that but they will still have a core there to work with,” Bance said.