THIS truly was about pride.
North Ballarat pulled off a one-point win against the reigning premier and competition benchmark Port Melbourne at Eureka Stadium on Saturday.
The Selkirk Roosters fronted up knowing their finals hopes had been extinguished in a Bendigo win the night before and that this season would be the first since 2003 the Roosters would not play Victorian Football League finals.
For the past two weeks, the Roosters had marked this match – regardless of finals chances – as one to play how they want to be seen.
They wanted to do the City of Ballarat, the region’s football and their supporters proud.
They wanted to honour long-serving captain Marc Greig in his final match playing for the club.
The Roosters made this clear from the moment they emerged from the players’ race, a determined purpose in their stride.
When it came to the absolute crunch, deep in a near-35 minute final term, the Roosters showed their trademark resilience and held on.
Two late Port Melbourne goals put the Borough within a point.
Play was held up in the Roosters forward pocket until the Port broke free and found deadly tall forward Adrian Bonaddio, about 52 metres out from his goal.
The siren went, but Bonaddio was called for playing-on, and the Roosters erupted in on-field celebration.
In a bittersweet twist, had Bendigo lost a night earlier, this win would have taken the Roosters into the top eight.
Greig, who built his career as a highly-regarded tough defender, spent the match deep forward in a defensive role.
He booted two of the Roosters’ most important goals: the opener less than four minutes into play; and, a momentum breaker 22 minutes into the final term, cutting a 10-minute period of Port intensity that had yielded the Borough three goals.
It was the lasting buffer the Roosters needed, having sat 29 points up before the Port surge.
The Roosters had the edge at each break but fought hard to do so each time.
Play was tough, physical and passionate from both teams.
The Roosters lost key goal sneak Bill Driscoll midway through the opening term with a heavy blow to the ribs.
A fight erupted deep in the second when Roosters’ hard-man Nick Couch was reported for a high bump on Port’s Daniel Noonan.
No player was prepared to let this match slip.
Three points up at quarter-time, Roosters coach Gerard FitzGerald praised his team for doing well the things they said they would. He challenged his players to go again and again each quarter. And they did.
North Melbourne-listed tall Aaron Black produced a three-goal second term to help set up a seven-point lead by half-time and was selfless in assisting his teammates.
But the Roosters’ big break came in a five-goal to two third quarter in which Paul McMahon kicked three goals within five minutes to close the term.
Excepting the last 10 minutes of the final term, the Roosters had met all their defensive targets identified so they could measure the pressure applied on Port.
In the end, it became about sheer pride.
FitzGerald was quick to draw on the emotions in the room post-match, saying these fantastic moments were “the reasons you’re involved in footy”.