ORANGE Tigers coach Nathan Pearce felt one emotion more than any other when his team won the Central West AFL grand final on Saturday.
“Relieved,” Pearce said.
“I was relieved for the guys. There are guys at the club who have worked hard on and off the field for a long time.
“After being here for 13 years and missing out on the 2002 win as a player, and coaching for four years, it made it all worthwhile.”
The Tigers were clear underdogs in the grand final after the Bathurst Bushrangers had gone through the season without a loss.
Despite all the statistics and Bathurst being clear favourites, Pearce always believed his team could win the one that counts, beating the Bushrangers 14.8 (92) to 13.11 (89).
“I said all season I was confident about our playing group and what they were able to do,” Pearce said.
“I said we wouldn’t be able to do it until the finals when we have everyone available.”
The coach admitted he was more nervous during the preliminary final against Cowra.
“I was quite calm in the grand final,” he said.
“My backline was holding up and the midfield was winning clearances. We just had to hold our composure.
“Those boys who were playing on Saturday, there was no way they were going to be beaten because they were so determined.”
The premiership flag was decided in one game, but preparations started long before.
Pearce said he and the players made a pact in November last year to make sure they did the best they could to win the premiership.
“Way back in November last year I met with the players and said for us to be a premiership chance we had to do three things: one, we had to be fitter than we have before; two, we had to be better planned, and; three, we had to be committed,” Pearce explained.
They did that during the season and then in the grand final it all came together.
Joel McKenzie was named best on ground for the big game, but Pearce said any player from either side could have earned that title such was the standard of the game.
“Bathurst were the benchmark this year,” Pearce said.
“The are a great side and coached by a good man in Mark Kennedy. We have a lot of respect for the Bathurst Football Club.”
Pearce said the players enjoyed their celebrations on Saturday night, as well as a silly Sunday and mad Monday.
“I’ve been here 13 years and this is the first year I’ve ever taken Monday off after the grand final,” Pearce laughed.
There hasn’t been talk about the 2014 season yet within the Tigers camp.