Temora kept their grand final hopes alive with a five-point win over East Wagga-Kooringal on Sunday afternoon but Kangaroos coach Jake Wooden has warned they’ll need to play a whole lot better if they’re to get another crack at Marrar in a premiership decider.
- RELATED COVERAGE:
- Belief drives Bombers into another decider
In a low-scoring elimination semi-final at Robertson Oval, the Kangaroos came back from eight points down early in the last quarter – the biggest margin of the game until that point – to kick three straight goals and book a preliminary final date with North Wagga next Saturday.
But Temora coach Jake Wooden admitted the 7.9 (51) to 6.10 (46) win left a lot to be desired.
“We definitely did it the hard way, it was an arm-wrestle all day,” Wooden said.
“It was scrappy footy, a lot of contests, a lot of skill errors. We tried to rectify that the last couple of weeks because you just can’t have poor skills in finals. Teams can make you hurt, especially coming up against North Wagga next week. We won’t be able to play like that. Well we did in the first final and look what they did to us (Saints won by 60 points).”
The Kangaroos sprang a surprise on game day with three-time premiership player Tim McAuley back for his first game in three months and just his fourth senior appearance of the season. It was a massive inclusion.
After finishing his rugby league commitments with a Tullibigeal-Lakes United loss on Saturday, McAuley backed up and started in the forward line and kicked the first goal of the game with his second touch.
He was proving a handful up forward, with close to 10 disposals in his first 30 minutes, including six marks.
But EWK midfielder Chris Gordon’s possessions were in double figures by quarter-time and he’d kicked their only goal of the first quarter on the Hawks’ way to a one-point lead at the first break.
By half-time, the scoreline still looked like a rugby game, with the Hawks leading 19-17 after a goal each and a host of missed shots.
The third quarter again saw neither side able to seize control and open the game but the lead changed hands with all four goals of the quarter. However, it was still EWK leading by two at the last break.
The Hawks then got out to eight points early in the fourth quarter when James Hodges marked and goaled.
However, that seemed to be the spark Temora needed. They found urgency, upped the intensity and got some reward. Chase Grintell brought them back within two points at the 10-minute mark, then captain Charlie Vallance put his side in front almost immediately, before stretching the lead to a season-saving 10 points in the 17th minute with his third goal.
A brilliant run out of the middle by Brocke Argus at the following centre clearance set up Hodge’s third goal to bring EWK back to within four but Temora held on.
“I said to the boys at half-time and three-quarter-time that we’re right in this,” Wooden said. “We just had to hang in there. It was just contest after contest and I thought if we could just keep that pressure there, then eventually they’d crack. We got those couple of goals in the last quarter and that was the difference.”
McAuley moved into the midfield in the last quarter and racked up seven touches in the first 10 minutes of the last quarter.
“He played a full game of league yesterday so we only just got him and he’s sort of the difference I reckon,” Wooden said.
“Next week, he’ll be right to go, not playing league so he’ll be a lot fresher.
“We can bring him down forward next to Wally (Matt Wallis) and they’ve got to respect him, they can’t just go to Wally… and we threw him in the middle and got a lift, so it’s good to have him back.
“But it was just a good team effort. I said to the boys – and they know it wasn’t pretty – but I didn’t think there were any passengers today.”
Teenager Will Reinhold had a big game for Temora with some crucial play in the backline and taking clever options while McAuley’s contribution was massive and Sam Jensen and Luke Gerhard had some big plays in the last quarter to get them going.
For the Hawks, young forward Keigan King could hold his head high after another big game, including an important individual’s goal to restore their lead just before half-time and bringing plenty of pressure to bear throughout. Backman Isaac Walton was another to stand up limiting Wallis’ influence