Springbank’s premiership hopes are well and truly alive.
A blistering second half saw the Tigers storm home to a 40-point win over Hepburn in Sunday’s semi-final.
After an arm wrestle early, it was Springbank which was able to find another gear.
The Tigers dominated proceedings after the main break, smothering their Hepburn opponents and using the ball with superb precision.
The Burras could only watch on as their dream of back-to-back flags quickly turned into a nightmare.
An injury to star Andy McKay’s shoulder had a visible impact on Hepburn’s run and carry, particularly as the match progressed.
In the end, the Burras simply couldn’t keep up.
For the Tigers, the victory showcased the thirst for the contest that is needed to win finals.
Springbank coach Sam Giblett said it was a defining moment for his team.
“The build up to the game was the biggest this footy club’s had for a long time,” he said.
“We’ve had mental demons with Hepburn for years. They’re a club that we’ve got utmost respect for.
“Today was a massive step forward for us. I don’t think we had one bloke come off that ground who didn’t have an impact.”
A preliminary final against Waubra beckons next Sunday, and Giblett believes his team is in good shape heading into the clash.
“Other clubs have their injuries, but we’ve got 25 blokes ready to go against Waubra,” Giblett said.
“We’ll go back to the drawing board and work out how we break them down and earn a spot in the Grand Final, because we’re not going anywhere.”
However, a question mark hovers above Tigers’ sharpshooter Tom Eltringham, who rolled his ankle in a marking contest during the third quarter.
Giblett said the forward’s prospects of playing against Waubra are touch and go.
“We’ll see how it goes Thursday night, but he might be the only one we’ve got a doubt on,” he said.
“We’ve got Ryan Knowles playing in the twos at the moment, so that’s where our list is good and healthy.”
Only two weeks ago, Hepburn appeared a genuine chance for successive premierships.
According to coach Clive Raak, the Burras were simply unable to produce their best form when it mattered most.
“For the first time I’ve been involved with Hepburn, we’ve lost two games in a row,” Raak said.
“We’ve played differently in the finals series to how we’ve played all year. We dropped off in our intensity and our tackling, which we pride ourselves on.
“At the start of pre-season, I spoke to the boys about how hard it is to win back-to-back flags. Unfortunately, we showed today that the candle has been blown out.
Nippy rover Dan O’Hallaran was impressive for the Burras, as were defenders Alan Ware and Fergus O’Connor.
For Springbank, midfielder Joel Mahar once again produced an outstanding performance, while Stuart Taylor was an important contributor up forward with four goals.