SPRINGBANK survived a barnstorming comeback to defeat Creswick by 12 points to secure its first finals victory in 12 years on Saturday.
“That was finals footy at its best,” said victorious and somewhat relieved Tigers coach Sam Giblett.
His Creswick counterpart, Len Watson, agreed. “What a great game,” he said.
Both coaches complimented their players’ heart and pride in what was a stirring contest that had the crowd reaching full voice during a gripping final term.
Springbank had worked hard to maintain a four-goal advantage for much of the first half and had extended this lead to six goals mid-way through the third term before Wicker wingman Brennan Deppeler ignited the revival with two goals in the shadows of three-quarter-time, while Liam and Caleb Hepworth lifted in the midfield.
A 17-point lead to the Tigers going into the last quarter still looked to be enough, however, especially when Ryan Knowles extended the lead to 22 points at the five-minute mark. The irrepressible Deppeler struck again for the third time five minutes later, keeping the Wickers in touch.
Blink and you would have missed it. With his team’s season on the line, Creswick danger-man Mick Lockyer, who had been well held for much of the game, burst off the leash with two terrific snaps inside two minutes, slashing the margin to just three points to send shudders through the Tiger camp.
With their season hanging by a thread, the clear heads of Tiger forwards Paul McMahon and Tom Eltringham were to prove decisive. McMahon marked strongly, and sensing he was too far out to score, held his nerve to wait until Eltringham found space, who in turn pin-pointed Joel Maher 20 meters from goal.
Maher, who had recovered from a heavy knock in the first term, kicked truly to give the Tigers some valuable breathing space before Eltringham sharked the pack less than a minute later to boot his fourth and the sealer.
Giblett was pleased with the efforts of his on-field leaders in the final nail-biting minutes.
“We had a few lapses throughout the game. All credit to Creswick, but we have some strong leaders in this team,” he said.
Springbank will now face minor premier Buninyong in another knockout final.
“We intend to make an impact on the finals and expect a hard contest next week,” Giblett said, looking to the likes of Simon Quinlan, Luke Fisher and Lachlan Dickson to take it up to the Bombers.
Creswick’s brainstrust will take just a week off before starting to plan for next season.
“We’re not far away. We’ll get more games into the kids and add to our mid-field strength,” is how Watson can see the Wickers taking the next step and winning a final.