SHEER mental toughness kicked in for North Ballarat Rebels to snatch victory from Sandringham’s grasp by two-points in this TAC Cup under-18 qualifying final.
The Rebels trailed by 23 points at the final break at Carlton’s Visy Park yesterday.
Rebels coach David Loader kept his message simple and positive in the huddle - this was about belief.
Tall forward Michael Close booted a goal from a free kick to put the Rebels two points up, 24 minutes into the final term and the Rebels managed to lock down the final three minutes’ play.
Close’s goal polished off a hard-working comeback, sparked from the opening bounce of the fourth quarter.
The Rebels needed a forward hero.
Louis Herbert became that player in a five goal match, including three in the final quarter.
Herbert kicked a major within the opening two minutes’ play and the Rebels, as encouraged by their coaches, celebrated big.
They continued pushing forward and Herbert stood up for a second goal just past the eight-minute mark.
Sandringham replied midway through the term to push the margin out to 17 points.
But momentum was already in the Rebels’ favour.
“It didn’t matter how long it took to get that first goal ... I wanted the boys to celebrate and have Sandy believe that we’re coming,” Loader said.
“Once we got that second last goal, I knew we were running the clock. It’s very, very hard to stop that sort of momentum.
“I’m proud of them, how they battled it out and kept digging.
“None of us lost faith in them and they didn’t lose faith in themselves.”
Midfielders Matt Crouch, Jake Lloyd and Tony Lockyer were pivotal in getting the ball forward and breaking Sandringham’s control.
Nick Rippon tore the Dragons’ midfield apart with his run.
The Dragons sport a similar game to the Rebels, talls deep in defence and up forward with a fast run-and-carry style though the midfield showcased on Visy Park’s vast ground.
Until three-quarter-time, the Dragons had the edge in effective ball use.
The Rebels’ defensive pressure, led by captain David Morris, was intense.
Defender Lachie Cassidy was relentless.
Cassidy’s tenacity was highlighted in a fearless tackle laid deep in defence late in the third quarter, winning the ball and saving the Rebels from immediate danger.
Loader praised his team’s mental toughness and belief in his post-match address, reinforcing to the group the last 25 minutes of the match showed what his team did well.
The win showed what they were capable of achieving.