By NICK McGRATH
FOR at least a quarter of yesterday's Central West AFL minor semi-final between the Orange Tigers and Parkes Panthers, it looked as though injuries, form and a red-hot opposition would finally catch up with the black and golds.
But thanks to a dominant second-half, the Tigers turned what loomed as another early exit from the premiership race into a 14.18 (102) to 9.9 (63) win at Country Club Oval that could well be the making of the Orange club.
The Tigers are back.
"That's it. It's unbelievable really. The feeling in (the sheds) is ridiculous, it's so good," player-coach Joashim Mahon said following the dominant 39-point win which was the Tigers' first semi-final victory since 2010.
"It's just good to win a final really. We'll go over to Cowra next week with the belief that we can knock them off."
The Tigers were in trouble early, nailing just the one goal in the first quarter to trail the Panthers at quarter time.
But slowly the home side edged its way back into the must-win game.
Rallying in the third term, the Tigers started hitting targets and booting majors to go on a 30-points-to-two run to lead 10.15 (75) to 7.5 (47) at the final break.
Needing to lift to have any hope of playing in the grand final qualifier next weekend against the Blues, Parkes bounced back to boot the first two goals of the fourth term until goals to Jake Hannus, Shane Properjohn and two to Michael Rothnie blew out the result.
The Tigers were too good to go on and win 14.18 (102) to 9.9 (63).
"We knew they'd come out hard in the last quarter and they did. Credit to the boys we gave it right back and didn't let them get back into the game and kicked a few quick goals to really blow the margin out," Mahon said.
Mahon said despite Parkes coming out and leading early on in the contest, he knew it would be the Tigers' day.
"On the scoreboard they were in front but I just felt, we had seven shots in the first quarter and missed six of them, right from the get go I thought we were on top early and showed we can be a good side," he said.
The late inclusions of representative players Simon Kay and Tom Burge helped, too.
"They put the boots on and made a big difference," Mahon smiled.
"I thought it was going to be a close match and to have those two inclusions late in the week, it gave me the confidence that we were going to win."
For the Tigers young Rothnie was strong in the forward line in the final quarter while Jesse McKenna was a standout.
"He killed them and Adam Radford had a great game, they were probably our best two along with Shane Properjohn, he was pretty influential on the ball," Mahon said, adding if the Tigers fired again, a win in Cowra wasn't out of the question.
"We'll see how things go during the week but there's no reason why we can't go down to Cowra and can't beat them."