As the sun set over the picturesque Rumbalara oval on Saturday afternoon, the Murray Football League 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 began, 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 Football League 2.1, 5.4, 9.8, 12.10 (82)
Wimmera Football League 5.7, 11.12, 16.16, 18.19 (127)
Murray: Nathan Hicks 3, Luke Moore, Bailey Bell 2, Daniel Schaper, Hamish Hosking, Corey Hickford, Coby McCarthy, Michael Herlihy.
Murray: Michael Herlihy, Luke Moore, Zac Brain, Nic Denahy, Cam Ilett, Bailey Sawyer.