East Wagga-Kooringal have declared they aren’t just making up the numbers in the finals after breathing life into their campaign for back-to-back premierships, with a do-or-die victory against the Northern Jets on Saturday.
The Hawks will march into next Sunday’s elimination final against The Rock-Yerong Creek high on confidence after the 11.9 (75) to 7.6 (48) win.
“We’re not here to fall in (to finals),” EWK coach Gavin McMahon said.
“We said eight or 10 weeks ago, if we can make the five and get in with a fit and healthy list, we’re pretty comfortable we can scare the life out of a few.”
The reigning premiers dusted themselves off after being humbled at home by Temora, and rose to the challenge of sudden-death football a week early at Ardlethan.
The Jets were still coming to grips with the pre-game exit of Chris Bell, who became a new father in the early hours of Saturday, when Jack Fisher went down with an ankle in the first minute.
As they pondered their avenues to goal, the Hawks had Nick Hull kick a long bomb in the first minute.
After 14 minutes, Hull had his second from outside 50 (with the breeze) and Ben Perkins was on the board and looking dangerous.
Jets backman Alex Rogers sneaked forward to find a goal but James Scott ensured the Hawks went to the first break three goals up.
Against the wind in the second quarter, the Hawks had plenty of momentum but the Jets kicked the only three goals on the back of some good pressure to make it a three-point game.
The Hawks started to move the ball well after half-time to take control.
With Hull and Perkins hard to handle and backman Trent Garner kicking the goal of the game from a wing, they got out to their biggest lead.
A 27-point deficit at three-quarter didn’t look insurmountable for the Jets, with the wind.
But in a bruising final term, EWK stood up to the challenge, maintaining their intensity and the scoreboard advantage to claim a character-building win.
“While I don’t know that we played brilliant football, we played the way we needed to play to get the job done,” McMahon said.
“When you’ve won like that and some of your more seasoned players weren't necessarily the standouts, that makes it even better.”
Defender Brenton Roberts is every chance of returning from a calf injury next week while a knock to Joe Scott’s knee won’t keep him down.
Garner’s 70-metre goal was the icing on a big game at centre-half-back.
“He was one today that went back with the flight on probably a dozen occasions and got smashed,” McMahon said.
Nathan Scott continued his good form while Hull showed he’s ready to shake up the finals series with a powerful display in the ruck and up forward.
“He’s pretty awesome,” McMahon said.
“You can use him in a number of ways and we certainly haven’t used him in all of those ways.
“It was nice to see. When he’s taking his marks like that you know the big fella’s on and he’s hard for anyone to stop.”
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