Mangoplah-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes proved they are the real deal with a thrilling six-point win over Coolamon at Kindra Park on Sunday.
The Goannas trailed by as much as 38 points midway through the second quarter but finished with nine out of the last 11 goals to run over the top of the Hoppers, 12.11 (83) to 11.11 (77).
It was new MCUE recruit Brayden Ambler that proved the hero for the Goannas, kicking the final three goals of the game to lift his new club to their third straight win to start the season.
Ambler did it all in the final term, kicking one goal on the back of a spectacular pack mark, along with two snaps from general play to inspire the Goannas to victory.
The Goannas finished full of running and ran over the top of a tired Coolamon in what was a far cry from earlier in the day, where the Hoppers set the standard with a seven-goal opening term.
While Ambler was the hero, it was also the likes of Lachie Kendall, Ryan Turnbull, Tom Keogh and George Kendall that led the turnaround for MCUE.
MCUE coach Jeremy Rowe was proud of his team's ability to fight back and snare an important win on the road.
"I definitely agree that pride's the right word. I think we can all feel proud of the effort that the players put in today," Rowe said.
"We were certainly caught on the back foot. I felt the players went in with absolutely the correct focus and had real trust that they were ready to play but obviously Coolamon were far too good in the early stages of the game.
"I thought we were very fumbley and it just allowed Coolamon to play it on their terms. To see us chip away...grind our way back into the contest and win ultimately what was an arm-wrestle was just incredibly pleasing and full credit to everyone out there."
The Goannas have now started the season with big wins over Wagga Tigers and Griffith, and now did it the hard way to overcome Coolamon on their home turf.
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Rowe is pleased with how things are tracking at Mangoplah early in the season.
"We've taken confidence out of all different aspects of the early stages of the season and today it was all about that resilience and making sure that when we're challenged, we can absorb a challenge and then throw it back the other way," he said.
"Today also gives us the opportunity to work on a lot of stuff. And there's a lot that will fall into our room for improvement category but the one thing that will continue to stand above that was the guts and determination that the players showed.
"I hope that they walk away from this with a real acute awareness that they can be challenged as a football team and we can be challenged as a football club and we can get down and dirty and still come out on top."
BJ Glyde was running hot for Coolamon early with three first-quarter goals, while Joe Redfern was also dangerous throughout. In the end, the Hoppers ran out of steam.
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