A LAST minute decision helped Great Western break their 36 year premiership drought on Saturday.
Conditions were perfect during the Mininera League senior grand final, which pitted the Lions against Penshurst in a match that was tipped to go down to the wire.
The Bombers kicked the first goal of the match, but on the Lions' side it was Gerard Cunningham who kicked the first goal for Great Western.
The Lions gave themselves a solid lead in the remainder of the first quarter, and by half time the score was Great Western 8.8 and Penshurst 4.5.
"It was a really fierce contest," Lions' coach William Bell said. "I think we were quite lucky to get out to an early lead in the game.
"I didn't feel like Penshurst were bad, I think we just capitalized and went forward and went into half time with a handy lead."
Things evened up in the third quarter.
"To Penshurst's credit they really came out and challenged us in the third quarter," Bell said. "They got themselves right back in the game. It could have gone either way - I think both teams deserved to win."
At one point play was stopped as the Bombers' Ryan Smith was carried off in a stretcher, with what was believed to be a broken leg after a mid-air clash with another player.
The game ended as it began - Cunningham booting a goal straight through the big sticks.
The score at just a few minutes to the final siren was 12.10 Lions and 12.12 Bombers, when a last goal from Gerard Cunningham sealed the Bombers' fate.
Bell said a key tactical decision was what saved the game for the Lions.
"You get a little bit blurry and you're trying to find something that is going to work for you, and you try and make some changes and bring some players on, and we did," he said.
"We had Bradley Palipuaminni ... on the bench, and I won't take any credit to it, my reserves coach Matt Delzotto was sitting there and said 'I reckon we should bring him on, he'll bring a bit of magic,' and that's exactly what he did.
"He kicked a goal straight away, got the momentum going our way, and then his brother Gerard Cunningham kicked the winner. It was exceptional."
The Lions supporters went absolutely wild when the siren went.
There were tears everywhere, hugs, the whole nine yards. Their Lions had won.
Cunningham - who was named one of the two bests - said he felt "excited" at the win, and fellow player Steven Lorenzo said winning the match was one of the "best feelings."
"It took them a while to win a grand final ... and now we've finally broken it today," Lorenzo said.
Danny Grellet also received a best medal.
"I'm not quite sure why I deserved it - I was off nearly all of the fourth quarter," he said. "Something must have shined out to them, but I'm not sure what it was.
"It kind of belongs to everyone, it's not just a one person thing. I'd feel much better if it was distributed among the club."
Grellet has played with the club since his junior days.
"I never ever thought that Great Western was going to be in a position to win a flag," he said.
"To play it with the group of blokes we've got, it was a really good year."
Penshurst playing coach Justin Eales says his team showed great character in the second half of its grand final loss to Great Western.
Eales said his team fought hard in the face of adversity. The Bombers had a horrific run with injuries in the third quarter.
"We had a bloke snap his leg and two blokes do hammies and no bench," he said.
"The way they responded with no one to come on from half-time was fantastic and it just showed character."
Eales said Ryan Smith broke his leg in the third term and was stretchered from the field.
He added Campbell Watt and Taylor McKenry both tore their hamstrings.
The Bombers, who found themselves eight points in front midway through the fourth quarter, couldn't hang on as the Lions kicked the final two majors of the match.
They had come from 27 points down at half-time. Eales said his team made a slow start.
"Pressure and intensity is always up in grand finals and I didn't want to be the team that took the longest to adjust to it," he said.
"And we were sloppy, our disposal was ordinary early and we gave away silly frees.
"What I was extremely proud of, was how they played the second half.
"It was chalk and cheese."
The Bombers mentor said it was a game of two halves.
"We cost ourselves in the first half and got back into it in the second but you've to play four quarters of footy," he said.
Eales, who hasn't committed to next year, said he and the club would talk about that in the coming weeks. He said the focus had been on the grand final.
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