There was always an asterisk against the result last time Numurkah and Nathalia met.
The Purples entered that fixture with a host of first choice stars missing and the Blues capitalised to take a 79-point victory in style in front of a huge super Sunday crowd.
A similarly vocal bunch poured into Barooga Recreation Reserve on Saturday to see Numurkah erase any doubt that it is the real deal this season.
The Blues imposed themselves physically onto the contest from the outset and after the sides exchanged blows early Chris O’Dwyer’s charges showcased their premiership credentials by piling on eight goals to one (from the 13-minute mark of the second term until the 28-minute mark of the third) to put the game to bed.
‘‘We knew Nathalia were going to be the same (as us) and very defensive and there was a lot of one-on-one contests and it never really broke open until that third quarter really,’’ co-coach O’Dwyer said.
‘‘That’s probably where we won it, we scrapped today and looking at it it wasn’t a pretty game, it wasn’t a high scoring game, but it was tough, and that’s what finals are about.’’
The Purples were simply not good enough for long enough to match it with the tenacious Blues, despite snaring six of the last eight majors for the match.
‘‘They were obviously very slick and well drilled and I just thought we overused the ball and our skill execution probably wasn’t where it needed to be for this time of the year,’’ Nathalia coach Craig Kellow said.
‘‘But I can’t fault our guys’ effort, I thought our pressure was pretty good, but the fundamentals of the game (let us down).’’
Numurkah ruckman Mitch Price used his size to monster Nathalia duo Jason Limbrick and Jarrod Maskell, and as one of the only Blues with a height advantage on his direct opponent seemed to pave the way for his teammates to fight above their weight class.
‘‘If you look at it across the ground, height and size (wise) Nathalia are a lot bigger than us,’’ O’Dwyer said.
‘‘I think Mitch Price in the ruck gave us first use of the footy, which was really good, and then it was just a matter of maintaining that and our midfielders doing their job and just playing a disciplined brand of footy.’’
Brad Vassal’s three goals proved crucial in making sure the Blues capitalised on their early dominance, while fellow midfielders Ben Gunning and Shane Miller were clearance machines and Mitch Jones burned plenty of rubber with his speedy wheels.
For the Purples, Phil Carroll, Alex Hicks and Tom Nihill stood up magnificently down back under plenty of pressure, but with Ricky Barnes (tight calf) and Ryan Butler (of the former Shepparton United variety) late withdrawals, Kellow’s side did not seem to deal well enough with Numurkah’s pace.
‘‘We were probably well beaten in the middle I felt, but we still had a couple of guys who worked really hard,’’ Kellow said.
‘‘There’s life after today so we move on to next week, and the positive for us with the season we’ve had is that we get another game into guys, so it’s glass half full, not empty, for us.
‘‘I don’t think we stop believing after the back of that one game, Numurkah are a good side and we could have done things better, but our guys will butter up and go again and quickly move forward.’’
Brett Vallender booted three goals as the main focal point in attack, but fellow talls Brodie Ross (two) and Liam Evans (one) were well held by a rotation of Numurkah defenders in Braydon Sutton, Tom Buzza and Luke McKeown.