North Ballarat Rebels have fallen out of the TAC Cup finals series in straight sets following its six-point loss to Oakleigh Chargers 12.14 (86) to 12.8 (80).
The Rebels, after an impressive home and away season, limped into their finals campaign after suffering injuries to some crucial players.
North Ballarat took to Ikon Park against an inform Chargers line-up which was coming off a 106-point drubbing of seventh-placed Calder Cannons in its elimination final. In a typically tight and contested finals match, Oakleigh got off to a strong start to make the early running before the final two goals of the first half went the way of the Rebels to make it a one-point ball-game.
Aiden Domic put North Ballarat in front in the opening three minutes of the third term as the Rebels looked to be gaining the momentum.
But once again the Chargers drew away, opening up 18 and 20-point leads in the second half – but the Rebels weren’t to be denied. A late fightback saw North Ballarat kick the final two goals to close to within six points and have the ball in its 50 when the siren sounded.
Coach Gerard FitzGerald praised the group’s resilience and in what was a disappointing day for the club, he was proud of the heart shown by the group.
“I thought our persistence was really good,” FitzGerald said.
“There was two things we drew comment on after the game. One was their resilience and the other one was their ability to play to a plan … we showed a capacity to bounce back, that’s a sign of a good side.”
Given the Chargers ominous form, the Rebels coaching staff opted to implement a more defensive game-style and limit the oppositions scoring ability which saw it kick 23 goals the week prior.
“I thought we played a really good defensive game which kept us there and abouts all day and in the end we very nearly pinched it.
“There was a lot of aspects of the game-plan that were specific to the day that worked really well.”
While the disappointment of exiting in straight sets was obvious, FitzGerald was extremely pleased of his group and the development he has seen over the course of the season. The TAC Cup competition is all about development and FitzGerald said he’d seen significant strides across the board.
“What’s the reason for the TAC Cup, the reason is to identify talent and try to assemble a really good group of young fellas.
“I think a real positive by-product of developing your players is that they learn good habits. I’ve noticed the development of some really good values, habits and behaviours in this particular group.”
Callan Wellings continued his strong end to the year – named the Rebels best.
There was two things we drew comment on after the game. One was their resilience and the other one was their ability to play to a plan.- Coach Gerard FitzGerald
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