Sport

Tongala defeats Numurkah to secure grand final spot

By Tyler Maher

Like a blue wave, Tongala supporters rushed the field from all parts of Barooga Recreation Reserve when the final siren sounded yesterday.

The effect was akin to that which their heroes had managed to produce in the dying minutes of the Murray Football League preliminary final against Numurkah.

Like the sea crashing onto a cliff face, Tongala threw attack after attack at Numurkah's defensive unit after falling 20 points behind in red time of the last stanza.

When Jordan Souter's troops attempted the same strategy with the breeze at their back in the second quarter, the cliff face stood resolute - giving up only tough chances on goal as Tongala kicked 1.6 in the term.

But with fatigue well and truly setting in after a warm day, Tongala was first able to find a crack - through Souter himself - and then managed to burst it wide open thanks to Coby McCarthy and Cam Ilett.

Ilett's major was a thing of beauty, taking only a few steps around from the point where the 50m arc meets the boundary line and calmly slotting the leveler.

Emotional: Tongala celebrates victory. Photo: Steve Huntley

McCarthy bobbed up once more with the most crucial behind of his career moments later - sneaking it inside the point post to gasps from the crowd - to give his side passage into Saturday's grand final against Nathalia.

"I couldn't be prouder of them," Souter said.

"We could have thrown the towel in, but we battled our arse off all day.

"We're probably pretty lucky to come away with it, but if you never stop, you never know what can happen and that's what we did today.

"It was a massive last five minutes. It takes a whole day to get into a winning position, but for those boys to stand up when they needed to was pretty special as a footy club.

"We're looking forward to next week, obviously we've got to suck this moment in as much as we can, but we know we've got a job to do against a powerhouse club.

"We're going to have to play a lot better than we did today to be competitive, but you never know, once you're in there you're a chance."

In full flight: Tongala's Cam Ilett. Picture: Steve Huntley

To paint a true masterpiece though - and this contest was indeed that - you need the contrast of shade as well as light.

Numurkah hearts broke across the arena when Kyle Fitzgerald clunked a contested mark near his attacking arc with more than 31 minutes showing on the clock, for they knew then their dream was over.

A brave and gallant effort fell just short of sending Jye Warren, Beau McKeown and Brad Dobson's charges into the final day of the season, but it was not for lack of trying.

Bodies flew everywhere in the final stages of the clash as desperation kicked in for both outfits, with the likes of Mitch Price, Grant Gallus, Michael Herlihy (five goals), Ben Gunning, Josh Hoffmann, McKeown and Josh O'Dwyer starring for Numurkah all day.

In another life, on another day, Numurkah's moments - such as a Tim Arnel tracer bullet from the pocket on the run to put his side more than three straight kicks ahead with less than 10 minutes remaining or Price willing his body to contest after contest to drive his side forward time and again - would be those written in the history books as "match winning".

But in the end the cogs of fate turned in Tongala's favour, with Makenzie Ryan (three goals) again proving his mettle on the big stage and Riley Bacon, Alex Williams, Jayden Tucker and Brayden Nevett joining him among the most influential players on the field.

FINAL SCORES

Tongala 1.0, 2.6, 7.9, 12.14 (86) d Numurkah 4.3, 4.4, 8.5, 13.7 (85)