A five-goal haul to forward James Hodges and a sublime performance from gun midfielder Chris Gordon has helped East Wagga-Kooringal to a 32-point win over Charles Sturt University in Sunday’s Farrer League elimination final at Robertson Oval.
The 12.6 (78) to 6.10 (46) win ended the Bushpigs’ season while booking the Hawks a semi-final showdown against Temora.
It’s the fifth year in a row that EWK will play on the second weekend of finals, in coach Matt Hard’s first season in charge.
“There’s plenty to work on but we live to fight another day, that’s the main point,” Hard said.
“We were a bit patchy at times I thought. We started off really well but probably went away from what we’d been doing. But then we came back when challenged in that last quarter – I thought we finished off pretty strongly. Our boys stood up really well as the game went on.”
Hodges had CSU on the ropes early with two marks and two goals in the first three minutes in a display that brought back memories of his starring role on grand final day two years ago against Coleambally.
While Nick Hull took two strong grabs at the other end, in EWK’s defensive 50, to turn the Bushpigs around and then floated forward to casually nail a goal from 48 metres out to give his side a three-goal lead after just 10 minutes.
The Bushpigs tightened their defence and worked their way into the contest in the second quarter but failed to kick a goal. They went to half-time 18 points down, after kicking four behinds, including a miss from in front by Vas Seker just before the siren.
Early in the third quarter, Hodges had taken his fifth and sixth marks and kicked his fourth goal, before Seker hit the post with another shot and the Pigs looked headed for one of those days.
But they were determined to give it a shake, kicking back to back goals twice in the third quarter to threaten, only to see EWK respond both times.
Still, there was less than three goals in it at the last break with CSU set to enjoy the breeze. However, the class and composure of an experienced team was the difference as EWK, led superbly by Gordon, rose to the occasion with four goals to one in the final quarter.
“It’s probably the most pleasing thing – we’ve been run over a bit late in games and going against the light breeze, that we kicked away a bit in that last quarter was the most pleasing aspect,” Hard said.
“I just thought all the boys chipped in throughout the day and played their roles. We knew it was going to take a team performance to get over them. Again, there’s plenty of improvement in us but I thought when we needed to, as a group they stood up.”
Chris Jackson kicked three goals – his first at a critical point in the third quarter when their lead had been cut to 11 points, and two in the fourth, including one after some superb Gordon lead-up work after the opening clearance.
And Hodges has now kicked 19 goals in his four senior games this season.
“He gives us a great option up forward and hopefully he only gets better as the year goes on. He was a good focal point and takes a bit of pressure off the other forwards,” Hard said.
Gordon was outstanding throughout while Hull played his usual important role. The return of Harry Fitzsimmons was also notable, closing down CSU’s Louis Miller and Keigan King played a strong game and kicked an important goal in the third quarter.
For the Bushpigs, captain Diarmid Cleary was outstanding across half-back on Brocke Argus, while Brayden Ambler and Rob Herzfeld didn’t stop trying to get them back in it.