Funny things happen on the big stage.
Although it’s cliche and at this time of year it’s a phrase whizzing around every competition far too often, it perfectly encapsulates the Orange Tigers’ stunning Central West AFL youth girls’ grand final win last weekend.
The black and golds hadn’t beaten the Bathurst Giants all season, in fact only the Bathurst Bushrangers managed that feat way back in round five.
Incredibly, outside that loss to the Bushrangers Giants coach Steve Mann said his side hadn’t even been behind on the scoreboard at all in 2018.
Until the last 40 seconds of Sunday’s decider, that is.
After an injury to Willow Smith in the dying stages delayed the game for some 30 minutes the decider restarted with just four left on the clock, and the Giants held the lead for three of those.
But as the clash entered its final minute Elizabeth Gibson struck, kicking a goal to give Orange the lead and ultimately snatch a 2.7.19 – 2.2.14 victory from the jaws of defeat.
“The incident with Willow was really unfortunate, devastating for the team but fortunately she’s okay and it’s nothing major,” Tigers co-coach Nita Noble, who mentors the side with Renee Cullis, said.
“I was a bit worried the girls may not be able to go back out and pick up the same intensity they’d been playing with, but they did. They had to pull out all the stops, but they did it and got over the line, we’re very proud of them.
“We actually hadn’t played the Giants since [round four], all our other games had been washed out or snowed out, so we were really looking forward to testing ourselves against them with a full side.”
Although it was a tough way to lose, Mann couldn’t have been prouder of his Giants, his daughter Molly was named best on ground from the wing too which added another consolation.
“We didn’t even dream to play in a grand final from the start. I said if we won a few games along the way and everyone learned how to play football and enjoyed it, then everyone would be a winner,” Mann said, most of his squad were new to the sport.
“To make the grand final was just the icing on the cake.
“They played absolutely fantastic, they’ve had a great year, they’ve really worked hard.
“It really was a team effort, but Molly [being named] best on ground in a losing grand final side … is a fairly big thing to do. Normally that type of award goes to the winning team, she played outstanding.”
In Sunday’s other junior grand finals the Giants prevailed in under 17s, defeating the Bushrangers by 40 points while Cowra claimed the under-12 and under-14 flags.
The Blues beat out the Tigers in both those deciders, winning by three goals and 32 points respectively.
- ORANGE TIGERS 2.7.19 (Elizabeth Gibson, Grace McRae goals) def BATHURST GIANTS 2.2.14
DO YOU WANT MORE ORANGE SPORTING NEWS?
Receive our free newsletter delivered to your inbox every morning, as well as breaking news alerts. Sign up here.