A FOCUS on "making footy fun again" helped Coolamon conquer their recent demons in tight games and hold off a gallant Leeton-Whitton in a crucial 11.13 (79) to 9.8 (62) win at Kindra Park on Saturday.
An eight-goal haul from Joe Redfern ultimately proved the difference as the third-placed Hoppers bounced back from cliffhanger defeats to Collingullie-Glenfield Park (seven points) and Turvey Park (six) the past fortnight.
They were made to work hard by a spirited Crows outfit, fresh from a win over Griffith after falling to Wagga Tigers by just three points the week before.
Coach Sam Darley was outstanding, his hard running allowing him to rack up touches at will, but could face a nervous wait on two fronts.
He was reported and yellow carded for striking late in the first half, but is confident he has nothing to be concerned about.
The former GWS Giant and Western Bulldog also tweaked his quad very late in the match.
There's no doubt Coolamon still has plenty of work to do to get to the level of the Riverina League's top two, but their effort and endeavour was more consistent across four quarters.
The Crows could easily have stolen the match if they executed a little better at times, but Coolamon found enough.
Coolamon's 14-point lead was whittled won to six at the last change, but the Crows couldn't find the knockout punch.
Youngster Jason Burke battled admirably against Redfern, but his experience and great supply from his midfield was the difference.
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"The last couple of weeks we've let ourselves down in how we played. We wanted to get the energy up and make footy fun again," Redfern said.
"Leeton is definitely a better team than where they're sitting on the ladder. We still made mistakes, but we had the energy and the voice to make up for those mistakes today.
"I've been playing higher up the forward line most of the year, but Jerry (Maslin) Jerry went a bit higher and I went deeper today. It was good to get on the end of a few."
Darley has his fingers crossed he won't miss any football through the tribunal or injury.
"I'm hoping not but it feels like it (quad) is gone. It might settle down, but we'll wait and see," he said.
"They reported me for striking but I didn't take my hand off his jumper. I'm not too concerned."
The Crows' displays have been vastly improved the past three weeks, and Darley said the next step is turning tight defeats into wins.
"I reckon we cost ourselves more than anything. The way we moved the footy I was really pleased, we just didn't execute.
"You look at it two ways - I'm disappointed because for the growth of the group you need to be disappointed with the loss, but it's chalk and cheese to what we were doing earlier in the year.
"One thing you can't question is the character, if you can hold your head up character-wise it builds footy clubs.
"I'm very proud of the way we went about it, but we lost. The next step is turning those into wins and not being satisfied with honourable losses."
Coolamon 3.0 7.5 8.7 11.13 (79) def Leeton-Whitton 4.1 5.3 7.7 9.8 (62)
Goals: Coolamon - Joe Redfern 8, Braeden Glyde 2, Jeremy Maslin; Leeton-Whitton - Sam Darley, Tyron Rainbird, Nathan Tang, Dan Hillam, Bryce O'Garey, Angus Boulton, Matthew Rainbird, Thomas Meline, Hunter Booth
Best: Coolamon - Joe Redfern, Jake Barrett, Hayden Bradley, Luke Gerhard, Jayden Carroll, Jeremy Maslin; Leeton-Whitton - Ryan Grey, Jason Burke, Mason Dryburgh, Sam Darley, Joshua Thomas, Harrison Steele
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