As the sun set above the picturesque Rumbalara oval on Saturday afternoon, the Murray Football League’s seniors walked off the park having fallen 45 points short of Wimmera.
Facing a side full of quality across the board, Murray’s finest fought courageously, but could not repeat its 2017 win against Wimmera.
Rapid in transition and slick with the ball in hand, the visitors’ unrelenting pressure and awareness pushed them beyond reach of the Murray side.
Murray coach Jye Warren was pleased with how his side started, but acknowledged Wimmera’s speed across the ground was hard to keep up with.
‘‘We probably played two good quarters of footy, unfortunately we started pretty slow, whereas they started pretty quick out of the blocks,’’ Warren said.
‘‘Just their spread around the contest in that first half really killed us, we didn’t go with them and we tried to play a bit too pretty.
‘‘In the last quarter we came back and if we had played that same footy for the first three, I reckon we would have been in with a shot.’’
With both teams demonstrating a flee-flowing style of football from the centre bounce, young gun Coby McCarthy drew first blood for Murray with an effort launched form 30m out.
With Cam Ilett using the ball well in the middle, Murray kept the heat on Wimmera, but could not stop the visitors breaking away to lead 37-13 at the first break.
After a sluggish start to the second quarter, Wimmera steamed ahead with two goals in quick succession, testing the Murray side’s character.
Luke Fisher proved to be a danger for Wimmera, putting in a gutsy performance with a seemingly inexplicable exhibit of relentless running.
While Murray had more of a share of possession in the third quarter, it struggled to take clean marks inside the danger areas, allowing Wimmera to continue to notch up points on the board.
However, the hosts dug deep to put on a show for the supporters during the final stanza, moving the Sherrin about effectively and finding a number of goals through determination and grit.
But it was simply a case of too little, too late, with Wimmera rounding out the contest as eventual winners.
Warren said his side could hold their heads high after the performance.
‘‘I will never second guess my team’s endeavours because they all want to play for each other,’’ he said.
‘‘Hats off to the blokes who wanted to play because it doesn’t come around often, you might never play interleague ever again so that’s the positive I will take out of it and I was impressed with our finish.’’
Best on ground for Murray was Numurkah’s Michael Herlihy, working tirelessly and showing real quality on the ball.
Herlihy was grateful for the experience and relished the opportunity to play alongside some of his regular rivals.
‘‘It was a really good standard of footy and it was good to play with blokes who you normally go to battle with,’’ he said.
‘‘It was hot early, but we got sucked into the contest so when they spread they had numbers everywhere and they moved the ball really quickly.’’
Herlihy said Murray’s resurgence towards the end was inspired by Warren.
‘‘At three-quarter-time Jye said we had nothing to lose and said to play on at all costs, so that helped us put a bit more of a score on the board.’’
Murray’s early lead undone in under-18s
Playing on the carpet-like surface at Rumbalara, Murray’s under-18 interleague side was outclassed against Wimmera on Saturday.
Murray coach Levi Power admitted his side had the desired start, but failed to match Wimmera’s quality for the remainder.
‘‘We started really well out of the blocks, everything we spoke about before the game sort of came to fruition early, but I think we struggled to sustain it throughout the four quarters,’’ Power said.
Looking sharp early inside the forward 50, Murray threatened, but could not quite break away from Wimmera with a couple of chances squandered in front of the sticks.
Both sides came out of the sheds with fire in the belly, but it was Wimmera who started edging ahead midway through the second quarter.
While Murray gave its best to try and claw a way back into the game, Wimmera kept up the tempo and proceeded to put the foot on the throat of the hosts.
Trailing by more than 40 points going into the final stanza, Murray kept pushing, but Wimmera proved its class with a professional display across the board.
Riley Gow and Luca Allen played solid games in the centre, but it was Jordan Gee who claimed the best-on-field award for Murray operating as the catalyst for the side.
‘‘Those boys gave us a good spark through the midfield, they had some really good ball use and their work rate all day was really high,’’ Power said.
‘‘I think once they (Wimmera) lifted their pressure we couldn’t sustain our ball use, but I am really proud of the boys efforts.’’
A standout for the visitors was Drew Schneider, 16, who bossed the middle of the park and provided precious territory with smart general play and neat kicking.
‘‘I felt we had all the right signs early on, but the key was just sustaining and being able to lift when the opposition lifts which was probably the difference in the end,’’ Power said.
‘‘The loss could potentially get in the head of our guys, but it shouldn’t.
‘‘Hopefully we get some continuity over the next couple of years and build towards getting a win.’’