THERE was some relief post-match but mostly this was about pride.
All season North Ballarat Roosters coach Gerard FitzGerald has told his players their collective best was good enough to beat the best in the Victorian Football League.
They have rattled the likes of Collingwood, Essendon and heavyweight Geelong and finally captured the reward for their efforts against the newly relaunched Footscray at Eureka Stadium on Sunday.
Defensively the Selkirk Roosters managed to smother the Bulldogs, who were kicking with the wind in the final quarter, and fended them off by two points.
The Bulldogs, led by former North Ballarat Rebels coach Chris Maple, featured 17 AFL-listed players in their mix including legendary forward Daniel Giansiracusa, midfielder Mitch Wallis and ruck duo Tom Campbell and Ayce Cordy. Plus Jordan Russell, Nick Lower and Brent Prismall fresh off AFL lists.
North Melbourne captain Andrew Swallow led the Roosters in superb form – 22 touches, 14 tackles and nine clearances – as he consolidated on his comeback game made last week.
Fellow Kangaroo Ben Jacobs (32 disposals, six tackles, 12 clearances) also helped set the tone.
Roosters captain Michael Searl kept structures organised and was valuable in multiple roles.
FitzGerald, who this week equalled the VFL/VFA coaching record of 313 games, said it was important his new batch of up-and-coming players knew what it felt like to win at this level – a competition that evolves and gets tougher each season.
“I’ve admired the effort of the boys all year so far...they’ve been really strong and just to get a win gives them some reward,” FitzGerald said.
“Our best is very good and I thought (against Footscray) we played a good brand of good honest football.”
The Roosters made an impressive start to hold a 26-point lead at quarter-time, which the Bulldogs whittled back to 10 points by the half.
A narrow eight-point lead at the final break, after kept to 1.1 in the third, was always going to be tough for the Roosters to defend with the Bulldogs kicking with the breeze.
Play re-started in a free-flowing shoot-out before the
Roosters moved into lock-down mode.
Bulldogs captain Nick Lower said his team let itself down much earlier in the game, through the first half.
“We certainly stepped up the contested footy and clearances in the second half,” Lower said.
“There were always a fair few opportunities in front of goal and in the end we need to make the most of the opportunities going forward.”
The Roosters enter a bye round but for Footscray, Lower said a clash with a strong Sandringham was just what his team needed to test their form after a big win against Bendigo last round leading into a close battle with North Ballarat.