PROUD Farrer League coach Brad Aiken was so overwhelmed with the effort of his side on Saturday that he was willing to declare their one-point loss to the Hume League a virtual victory.
Aiken backed players willing to pledge their support for rep football, including some of the league's brightest but barely tested young talents. They slotted in neatly alongside proven big names who enhanced their own reputations, and helped the league's, with a display full of heart and commitment.
"I got that in spades mate. The boys put themselves out there and they represented themselves, the league and their clubs with gusto," Aiken said.
"The scoreboard tells the tale that we lost by a point but in my eyes I think we won - I think we brought respectability back to the Farrer League.
"Without actually winning, I don't think I could ask for anything more."
Seventeen-year-old ruckmen Jack Cullen and Jack Driscoll stood as tall in their performances as they are in size, with Farrer star Curtis Steele declaring they played like 200-gamers.
And Kane Flack, also 17, showed his class across half-back despite having played only one senior game for North Wagga.
"The promising thing for us in the Farrer League if they keep them around is young Flacky and the two Jacks - they were up against seasoned first grade footballers, grown men, and I thought they won their spots," Aiken said.
Steele starred up forward and in the midfield. He kicked three goals - almost four, but for a contentious shot on three quarter time which looked a goal right up until only one flag was waved. More inspirational, twice in the second half he produced gut-busting runs over 30m to run down an opponent and win a free kick just as Hume were setting sail for their forward line.
Mitch Haddrill was another to bring quality and composure, particularly in the first half when it proved infectious as Farrer worked themselves into the game and then proceeded to put the opposition on the backfoot.
But it was a performance of 22, with players all over the ground catching the eye, from a towering and tireless game by The Rock-Yerong Creek's Jim Carroll who was heavily involved throughout, to three goals to key forward Matt Wallis despite a heavy knock early in the second quarter.
It was almost unfair to single out individuals but young Hawks pair Harry Fitzsimmons and Nic Curran showed they weren't out of place at interleague level while late inclusion Tim Sullivan was a master of direction down back.
"Just everyone, for what they brought to the side," Aiken said.
"I don't think anyone at any stage shirked an issue or didn't put their hand up to go when it was their time to go.
"If we had have taken a few more opportunities, through the corridor and up front when we had them, the score might have been different.
"But Hume deserved their win as well. They were as good as we were, they turned it over as much as we did as well. Look, it was a bit of a goal-fest and I think it was a pretty good spectacle, to be honest. I thought it was a pretty nice game to watch."
With desperation and a willingness to play for each other and gel as a team, Farrer put themselves in a commanding position early in the last quarter with a 10-point lead but couldn't maintain it.
There were missed shots and errors to rue given the one-point result. But they'd also shown the required fight to stay in the game when their rivals threatened to get away.
Hume's lead got into double figures twice in the first quarter and a handful of times in the third, but it was never beyond two goals until midway through the last, when Farrer suddenly needed three for a win.
Even that proved only just beyond them as they finished with the last three scoring shots, for a white-knuckle conclusion to an open and exciting affair.