Effort, energy, work rate.
These were the three key ingredients to Lancaster’s 16-point surprise scalp of Avenel on Saturday, Lancaster coach Corey Carver said.
In an elimination final, it was essentially do-or-die for both teams, but it was the lower-ranked Lancaster that brought the goods to Longwood Recreation Reserve to progress to a semi-final against Stanhope this weekend.
Having been bundled out of the finals series in the first round for the past two seasons, it has been Lancaster’s goal for more than 12 months to win a final.
It was with this motivation Lancaster came ready to play top-three side Avenel, with the Wombats storming away with the opening three goals of the game.
And Avenel clearly looked rattled with its opponent’s intent, with the Swans ratcheting up their physicality around the contests, as well as making a number of silly mistakes.
The red and white soon returned to the mix, slotting goals through Kyle Maynard and Scott Taylor to limit it to a three-point deficit at quarter-time, but the Wombats quickly got back on top, kicking eight of the next 10 goals to go into the final stanza with a comfortable 42-point lead.
Spurred by coach Kasey Duncan to “show him something”, the Swans came out in the final term looking like an entirely different team to bring the margin back to 18 points.
But a goal to Lancaster’s Zac Cerrone punctured the Swans' momentum and steadied the Wombats' ship to claim the heart-stopping win.
Carver said the message to his team pre-match had been clear; bring the effort.
“What we’ve been doing is playing games for 60-70 minutes, but then we drop away,” Carver said.
“It was all about effort for four quarters.
“It was tackle hard, work hard, run hard, all those little things, one percenters, bumps, do that for a longer period and we did, and it got us in a position at three-quarter time that we were pretty comfortable.
“Obviously (Avenel) came back at us, we were pretty spent in the process of doing it.”
But with Lancaster in jubilation after its win, Avenel was another story, downcast after its finals exit came a little earlier than many had hoped.
“It’s still sinking in, it still hurts,” Duncan said.
“Credit to Lancaster, they played really well with their intensity level and energy around the ball.
“They spread, like we knew they would, got the overlap, and were able to score when they needed to.
“We controlled play for a bit, but couldn’t go forward and score quickly.
“We were a bit down on forward entries, we weren’t as good as previous games.
“And Lancaster’s numbers behind the ball made it hard to score.”
After losing to Avenel earlier in the season, Carver said his team was ready to take it up to the highly-fancied side.
“Avenel are a really good side, they only lost two games for the year,” Carver said.
“So, we knew every time they got the ball, we had to have someone on them and we did.
“And what that tends to do is make you second guess yourself with the ball and that was the aim and it worked for us for three quarters.”
Among Lancaster’s best was midfielder Tom Davies, who won plenty of the ball, while defender Adam Vick provided much of the Wombats' rebound out of Avenel’s attack.
And it was small forwards Austin Bizzotto and Zaid Besim who spurred the Wombats' attack, kicking five between them.
For Avenel, while the opening three quarters had the Swans struggle, it was their final quarter where they returned to that ''Swans brand of footy'' they've been aiming for all season.
“I was proud of the boys to fight it out to the end,” Duncan said.
“Angus Durnan tried hard all day.
“And Kyle Maynard and Braydon Avola were super in the midfield.
“Footy is a funny game — I’m sure there were some nervous Lancaster supporters at the end.”
While Avenel’s season is now over, Lancaster will be looking to take another scalp when it faces Stanhope this weekend, as it looks to progress deeper into the finals series.
“They’re a good side,” Carver said.
“But when you’re sixth, you’ve got to keep going, you’re going to face good sides the whole way.”
Lancaster 3.3 7.8 11.10 13.13 (91) d Avenel 2.6 3.7 4.10 10.15 (75)
Lancaster: A. Bizzotto 3, Z. Besim, Z. Cerrone 2, C. O'Neill, J. Donnell, N. Ross, S. Thomson, S. Spedding, J. Ross
Avenel: L. Watts, A. Durnan 2, B. Avola, G. Davies, S. Taylor, M. Morgan, M. McKenzie, K. Maynard
Lancaster: T. Davies, A. Vick, C. O'Neill, A. Bizzotto, B. Besim, S. Thomson
Avenel: K. Maynard, A. Durnan, B. Avola, J. McDonald, M. McKenzie