Lake Albert fall to Henwood Park in penalty shootout

CENTRE POINT: Fred Gardner tries to spark the Lake Albert attack during his team's loss to Henwood Park in a penalty shootout to decide the Football Wagga premiership on Sunday. Picture: Kieren L Tilly
CENTRE POINT: Fred Gardner tries to spark the Lake Albert attack during his team's loss to Henwood Park in a penalty shootout to decide the Football Wagga premiership on Sunday. Picture: Kieren L Tilly

“That is football.”

Lake Albert coach Michael Babic summed up the heartbreak of the penalty shootout loss in those three simple words.

A brilliant comeback from Lake Albert wasn’t quite enough to claim back-to-back Football Wagga premierships.

The Sharks fought back from 3-1 down against Henwood Park, scoring two goals in the last 16 minutes to force it to extra time.

It looked as thought Henri Gardner had scored the winner eight minutes into the second half of extra time only for Matt Menser to equal three minutes later.

Then it went to the dreaded penalty shootout.

Both teams slotted the first two before Duncan Brodie and Gardner had their shots saved by David Rainbird to see the Hawks prevail in an epic thriller.

Despite coming up short, Babic was thrilled by how hard his team fought just to get back into the contest.

“I am incredibly proud of this team after being 3-1 down with 25 minutes to go a lot of other teams would have lost that game, but to get ourselves back into the game and then in front was a pretty good effort,” he said.

Even with the result, Babic remained philosophical about the way the biggest game of the season ended.

“You know that if you don’t do the job in the 120 odd minutes that you go to penalties and once you get their it is any one’s game,” he said.

In the end Babic didn’t believe luck was quite on the side of the defending premiers, who dominated their rivals a fortnight ago to book a place in the decider.

“We made a couple of silly mistakes,” he said.

“The first goal was a ball over the top, which we knew was their strength, the second goal was just a calamity and the third goal bounce off his bum and he ran onto it.

“It was a little bit of luck and that is what you need to win a grand final.

“That was the difference between the two teams on the night – a little bit of luck went their way.”

While disappointed Kane Baumer was given a straight red card, which gave the free kick Menser used to equalise with after almost 120 minutes of football, Babic was impressed with his efforts in defence.

He also thought Justin Curran and Cameron Mavor were strong.

After just the four losses for the season, Babic is pleased with the year.

“I am very proud of this team and the effort they have put in over the year,” he said.

“There were a few games like tonight when they were down and out and showed a lot of character and a lot of fight to give themselves a chance to win and won most of them.”