An inability to capitalise on momentum, and a four-goal blitz from North Wagga leading into half-time, proved the difference in Saturday's grand final according to East Wagga-Kooringal coach Matt Hard.
The Hawks were down by 25 points at the main break after North Wagga broke free and kicked clear in the second quarter, with six goals to one, including four straight late.
"Towards the end of the second quarter," Hard said it slipped.
"North Wagga grabbed their chances and I thought in our second quarter we didn't capitalise going forward. We wasted too much footy going forward and they went down the other end and they executed.
"Full credit to North Wagga, they were the best side on the day and fully deserve the victory."
The Hawks enjoyed time on top in the first quarter but never had the dominant control in the middle they'd enjoyed in their earlier finals wins.
But in the middle of the second term, even after the Saints had kicked two straight for an eight-point lead, the Hawks responded to take control of the game for seven minutes. But they kicked only one goal and when momentum swung back, it swung fast.
And having to chase, and chase hard, from half-time on was to difficult.
"I think it was. You know, a four-goal gap, you never want to be four goals down at half-time in a grand final," Hard said.
Shortly after the main break, EWK needed five goals just to level it up after they opened with a behind and North Wagga responded with Troy Curtis' third goal.
Still, they kicked the next two, and in the middle of the last quarter pegged it back to a 13-point game.
"Full credit to our boys, they didn't throw the towel in. They battled hard all the way through but the damage was too great. We just couldn't get that next one to get us a little bit closer," Hard said.
"They all had a crack, they all came here to play. I never doubted their effort, the effort was there. It just wasn't our day."
Hard was proud of his team's character in digging themselves out of a hole a couple of weeks before finals.
"We've probably played finals for four weeks now. It was probably a week too many in the end. We had to fight hard for that third spot in the last round," Hard said.
"But I'm proud of the boys for the way they fought the season out.
"It wasn't our day today but I think they can hold their heads up high. They've had a go but there has to be a loser and unfortunately it's us today."
Midfielder Harry Fitzsimmons tore in all day, and had some critical touches to have them going forward while Tom Pocock and Hayden Nelson worked hard in defence.
Ladhams was a handful early, with four marks in the first quarter-and-a-half but Brayden Skeers didn't let him have it his way again and the clean supply also slowed.