North Wagga coach Kirk Hamblin was disappointed but far from disheartened after his team’s 12-point loss to Marrar in Saturday’s grand final.
The Saints fell just two kicks short of winning their first premiership since 1994 and Hamblin told his players to hold their heads high.
“Disappointed with the result but super proud of the boys’ effort,” Hamblin said.
“I said to them I’d be proud of them if they just kept working and working and working. And they did. They went down to the last minute throwing their bodies in there and trying hard. So I couldn’t be any prouder.”
Hamblin led well, including a goal early in the third quarter which had them in front by a point for eight minutes. But Marrar capitalised when they had momentum to open up a 21-point lead by three-quarter time.
Saints rallied in the last but couldn’t make the most of their chances, kicking 1.4 on the way to 6.8 for the game.
“Not so much regrets but where we lost the game was they won the clearances quite convincingly,” Hamblin said. “We’d talked about if we won the clearances we were going to give ourselves a good opportunity and we weren't able to do that today.
“Missed chances, that just sort of happens. It’s not a lack of anything. I always get the boys to focus on being able to apply pressure and give their all. Those things happen some days and they don’t happen other days and today they didn't happen.”
He said they were sorry they coudn’t win it for Josh Hanlon, who provided grand final day’s most powerful moment when he walked to the middle to toss the coin, lifting the crowd to its feet in stirring, spine-tingling ovation.
If the crowd was moved, the Saints were thrilled and their old ruckman joined his teammates for the national anthem in an emotional prelude to the main game.
“Yeah, well, I suppose the year that has been puts a lot into perspective,” Hamblin said. “It’s very disappointing to lose but I'm just super proud of the club and the way we’re building and hopefully we’ll be back bigger and better next year.”
Marrar coach Shane Lenon went out of his way to pay tribute to North Wagga.
“They've overcome a fair bit of adversity this year and having three footy sides playing in grand finals is a great achievement in itself. Kirk and the North Wagga footy club should be really proud of their efforts,” Lenon said.
Midfielder-forward Lachie Highfield continued his strong finals series while Ben Alexander was heavily involved on a wing and then in defence, where Sam Longmore had another big game and full-back Brayden Skeers worked hard.
Hamblin and Daniel Jordan both kicked two goals. The big forward took one screamer in the last quarter but couldn’t convert, which would’ve narrowed the gap to seven points with around seven minutes to play. He attempted another high-flier a little later as they desperately tried to mount a comeback but it wasn’t to be North Wagga’s day.