Southern Mallee Giants recorded its first senior Wimmera Football League finals victory at Horsham City Oval on Saturday, taking care of Ararat.
The historic occasion did not phase the Giants who looked comfortable in their 12.14 (86) to 6.6 (42) triumph over an inexperienced Rats side.
It was the first time since 2015 Ararat had been in a senior football final, with many of the teams young players experiencing senior finals for the first time.
Light showers of rain persisted throughout the match, making ball use difficult at times.
Despite coming up against a side with much more finals experience – albeit in another league – under their belt, the young Rats were not overawed in the opening stages of the game, with Cooper Heard booting the first major of the game.
Following that goal the play belonged to the Giants however, with nine scoring shots resulting in just two goals as they held a 12-point quarter-time lead.
Southern Mallee was down one rotation early on in the contest, with Leigh Stewart taken to hospital coughing up blood.
“I’m not too sure exactly what happened to him but it was mainly precautionary to take him and get him checked out. I’ve heard he is doing well and in good spirits,” Giants coach Coleman Schache said.
The loss of Stewart did little to slow the Giants down as they continued their dominance in the second term.
They looked to be playing in different conditions to Ararat, using the ball much cleaner and more efficiently. They booted five goals to just two behinds in the second term to hold a commanding 42-point lead at the main break.
The Rats were much more competitive in the second half – even winning the final term – but the damage had already been done. Both sides kicked five goals after half-time.
“I was pleased my boys weren’t bullied physically today. At times over the last few years we have laid down as a young group but we didn’t do that today,” Ararat coach Shane Fisher said.
“In the second half we were good but they were already in a winning position by then.
“Our intent was there and we were hard at the footy but we probably didn’t have the polish they did.”
Ben Webster booted four majors for the Giants while Sam White, Clint Burdett and Tim Sanford had strong games for the victors.
“The backs were terrific behind the ball, we had some great shape back there,” Schache said.
“Tim Sanford did a great job on Lachie Hamilton, keeping him goalless.”
Fisher said he is aware of what his side needs to improve on for next weekend’s elimination semi-final.
“We let ourselves down a fair bit by foot and bad kicking is bad football,” he said.
“The positive is we get another chance next week. I hope the boys have the belief they can compete once more.
“They would have learnt a hell of a lot from the experience against the Giants.”
Schache did not play on Saturday but he his hopeful he will return against Horsham next weekend. He said the win over Ararat is a big milestone for the club.
“What we wanted to do at the start of the year as to give ourselves a double chance and we made the most of that,” he said.
“It is a great day for the club. Since hearing the news we would change leagues in January the boys haven’t looked back and we are seeing some reward for our hard work.”