Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong coach Christin Macri said it hurt enormously to see his side work so hard to get into a strong position only to fall victim to a Griffith fightback in Sunday’s preliminary final.
The Lions worked their way back from an early 15-point deficit to dominate much of the first three quarters, only to let a 23-point lead – and grand final appearance – get away.
“We had an opportunity today, there’s no doubt about it, and we put ourselves in a strong position at times and we just made a couple of really crucial errors that allowed them to get their hands on the footy,” Macri said.
“Whether it was a few discipline things or not being clean enough with the footy. We spoke a lot about composure and at times today we just lacked a little bit. And that’s hurt us.”
Down by seven points heading into the last quarter, the Lions remained confident they could get the job done only to be overrun by a seasoned and composed Swans.
“We just had to clean a few things up and if we were able to do that we could win the game,” Macri said.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that. Especially the last 10 minutes, we just didn’t look likely.”
Big man Jacob Olsson was outstanding while Matt Knagge and Josh Walsh were strong at the back and Ben Walsh up forward. And Jethro Peck’s four-goal haul in 15 minutes of football had Lions fans on their feet. Three good goals in red-time in the first quarter and another superb shot from the boundary early in the second had his team up and about.
Macri acknowledged the shattering feeling of falling a few kicks short of the club’s first grand final since 2011 – the last of their seven flags in eight seasons – will, in time, give way to a recognition of what they've achieved this year.
“You can be caught up in the disappointment of missing the grand final by only a few goals, to then throw that away with (the feeling) that wrecks your year,” he said.
“But, to be realistic, it’s a fantastic year from where the club’s come from. We had both first and second grade make prelim finals when nobody – nobody – gave us a chance of going anywhere or doing anything like this at the start of the year.”
After just two wins last year against Narrandera, Macri returned at his old club and helped steer them on a much brighter path.
They lost two of their first four games, but only another three all season, climbing the ladder to finish the season a clear third on the ladder. Their 11 wins including one against grand finalists Collingullie-Glenfield Park.
They fell to the the Demons and Swans in finals but not without giving them almighty scares. And in between the Lions claimed their own comeback win over defending premiers, Leeton-Whitton.
“I knew there was character in the group and a work ethic and a pride in not only the group but the footy club as well,” Macri said.
“There’s a lot of good people involved. We just needed some direction and we had that. And belief.
“Our belief grew throughout the year. We played some patchy footy early but the more the guys saw the good footy they played, the better the year become and our back half of the year was outstanding.
“We fell short of Collingullie by five points and we’re two or three goals short (against Griffith) so we’re close.
“But unfortunately not close enough and there’s two teams playing next week and not us. But as far as the season goes, it’s pride.
“You’ve got to be proud. In a lot of ways it’s to be celebrated now that it’s over… we don’t put it aside and go, well it doesn’t matter. Of course it matters and we’re going to be disappointed for a while but we’ve got to use disappointment and go, you know what, we can grow from this and it’s been a pretty, pretty good year.”