Charles Sturt University gave their finals chances a massive boost with a surprise 19-point win over North Wagga on Saturday.
A combination of excellent goalkicking, an impressive work-rate and sheer hunger helped the Bushpigs to a 12.1 (73) to 7.12 (54) victory at Peter Hastie Oval.
CSU were near faultless in front of goals as full-forward Jeff Ladd produced a brilliant full-forward's game with five goals, many coming from difficult positions.
It was CSU's first win over North Wagga in nine years and moves the Bushpigs within two points of the top five just a week out from the half-way point of the season.
CSU coach Travis Cohalan said it was an important win for the Bushpigs on several fronts.
"Absolutely. It keeps us right in the hunt," Cohalan said.
"After we dropped a couple of games early in the year that I thought we could have won, it's a pretty even comp, I thought we had to be at worst three (wins) and five (losses) come the turn and now we've got an opportunity to be four and four with next week's game against The Rock if we can perform well against them.
"It's important in the context of the season but I think even more important for the club. It was the first win over North Wagga in nine years for the club so it means a lot to the guys.
"It is a transient club and people think that there aren't many old Bushpigs around but there are quite a few around and for those guys today to be able to experience a win over North Wagga for the first time in nine years means a lot.
"I said to the boys before the game the opportunity for us is for the Bushpigs of 2022 to be the first team in nine years to beat North Wagga and the boys took the challenge and I thought they earned the win. It's positive for the club."
North Wagga had the better of the opening quarter but CSU took their only two shots on goal for the quarter, whereas the Saints kicked five behinds.
Ladd booted three goals inside the opening 10 minutes of the second quarter as CSU begun to gain ascendancy and shot out to a 24-point lead.
Leading by 16 points at half-time, the third quarter was shootout as both teams went goal for goal. Harry Wakefield kicked his third for CSU just before three-quarter-time and it was an important one as the Bushpigs pushed the margin back to 16 points.
Ladd kicked his fifth goal a minute into the final term to help create a 22-point buffer. North Wagga came again, narrowing the margin to 16 after a Kirk Hamblin goal, and could have put the Bushpigs under the pump shortly afterwards but a Nathan Dennis miss from directly in front let their opponents off the hook.
Any remote chance of a late rally but was thrown away by North Wagga late with ill discipline.
Ultimately, the Bushpigs worked harder and wanted it more, something Cohalan was proud of.
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"Really I thought our contest work and our ability to win the contest and put pressure on the opposition, I've questioned it once this year and that was against Marrar but we bring that nearly every week," he said.
"I think today we were prepared to work hard both ways, with and without the footy, and we also held our structure a bit more.
"We changed up the forward line with rotations a bit, we didn't have as many mids resting forward, we thought the last few weeks that our mids when they've rested forward, they've continued to play like a midfielder and get sucked too high up the ground and we'd have Laddy or Dusty flying against three, we'd bring it to ground and have no ground-level representation so we worked hard at it this week at training.
"We had a bit of a team meeting with the forward group before the game, said this is the way we want to play, don't get dictated to and I thought we held our structures well today which I think was probably the most difference."
Cohalan also commended his group on their work in front of goal.
"The boys get sick and tired of hearing me talk about missed opportunities. Certainly in the year and a half I've been here, we've definitely kicked more behinds than goals," he said.
"Even last week against EWK, East Wagga didn't kick a goal until 10 minutes into the second quarter and we'd kicked 1.4 and missed some really gettable ones so if that's 4.1 maybe it's a different story.
"So I think you've really got to be put scoreboard pressure on early to match your endeavour and effort around the contest."
Ladd had a big influence in the win with his five goals, while Lachie Holmes and Max Findlay were other standouts for CSU.
Kane Flack, Cayden Winter and Elliott Winter were North Wagga's best.
CSU Bushpigs 2.0 6.0 10.1 12.1 (73)
North Wagga Saints 0.5 2.8 6.9 7.12 (54)
GOALS: CSU Bushpigs: J.Ladd 5, H.Wakefield 3, A Dickins 1, J.Bell 1, D.Rogers 1, L Holmes 1; North Wagga Saints: N.Dennis 3, C.Winter 2, B.Clark 1, K.Hamblin 1 BEST: CSU Bushpigs: L.Holmes, J.Ladd, S.Barrow, C.Watt, M.Findlay, D.Rogers; North Wagga Saints: E.Winter, M.Parks, N.Dennis, M.Thomas, L.Johnson, K.Hamblin
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