Saints break drought on home soil

Joel Virtanen was named best player for Nangwarry in the drought-breaking victory on Saturday. Pictures: LACHLAN ONIONS

Trevor Jackson

Nangwarry 13.12 (90) d Tantanoola 11.14 (80)

The celebrations were heard far and wide on Saturday night as the Nangwarry Football Club claimed its first win since 2014.

Back in 2014 the Saints claimed a tight win over Robe but victory had eluded them since.

That was until Saturday when the drought was broken in Round 10 of Mid South East football against Tantanoola, fittingly at the Nangwarry oval.

With just seconds remaining in the contest, Josh Weedon snapped a goal to put the Saints 10 points clear and seal the victory.

There were wild scenes when the final siren sounded, as the Saints’ faithful ran onto the ground to celebrate with the players.

Coach Luke Thomson was dragged into the middle of the huddle as his players celebrated.

When he eventually emerged he could not believe the scenes surrounding him.

“When the siren went I was flooded by the boys,” Thomson said.

“I was in the middle of the huddle and when I got out there were people everywhere.

“For me it was a better feeling than winning a grand final.

“There was not a dry eye at the place.”

Thomson said with the scenes unfolding before him, the magnitude of the win “hit home pretty quick”, with celebrations then spilling over to the new clubrooms.

“A lot of people came through the doors to celebrate with us,” he said.

“Tantanoola represented their club well and had heaps of numbers in there.

“We tested the new facilities out, that’s for sure.”

To claim that first win at home was something special for all involved.

The script could not have been written any better and Thomson touched on the importance.

“We had our chances against the couple of teams during the year which were away,” he said.

“For me, I always wanted to get that first one at home.

“With the new clubrooms up and running it was a good fit to get the win at home.”

As for the game, it ended with a 10-point victory, after the Saints led at every change.

Andrew Hyland was again used to good effect up forward, with five major scores for the Saints to help ensure they had their noses in front when it mattered most.

The Saints were fast out of the blocks and held a handy 19-point advantage at the first break.

The Tigers lifted in the second term to close the margin to five points but again the Saints applied the blowtorch in the third and extended the margin out to 11 points.

That set up an epic final term and it certainly did not disappoint.

Saints were up by 18 early in the final quarter, then the Tigers closed it down to just three points as the final siren fast approached.

However, the Saints again pushed forward where a late goal to Josh Weedon sealed the Tigers fate and when the final siren sounded soon after, the noise was deafening as the whole venue erupted.

Hyland was joined by Matthew Pratt and Thomas Vanderhorst with two goals each.

After a 104-game losing streak, Thomson simply said it was “good to get the monkey off the back”.

As for Weedon’s timely goal, the importance of the moment was not lost.

“Josh snapped it through and sealed the win, which was good,” Thomson said.

“He has kicked a couple of goals this year but that is definitely the most important one.”

Thomson said the Saints approached the game with a simple plan.

“Our goal this week was to be in front all day,” he said.

“We came out of the blocks pretty hot then they matched our pressure and physicality which made us think a bit.

“Going into half time still in front was a huge plus for us.

“We have weeks where we only play a half a game of footy, so one thing I drummed into the boys was to get in front and stay in front, then you don’t burn your tickets trying to claw your way back.”

Thomson also noted the importance of Joel Virtanen’s effort to be named best on ground.

At just 19 years-of-age the Nangwarry product certainly made the most of the moment as the game unfolded.

“The way Joel goes about his footy and how important he is to us, if we were to win a game he had to dominate,” Thomson said.

“We have a lot of good footballers and we are starting to gel but if he is picking up the footy 30 times – he doesn’t miss a target too often.

“Late in the game after they kicked a goal I put him straight in the middle, knowing he had to be there, getting his hands on it.

“He doesn’t waste the football and the more he touches it, the better we look.”

Thomson said as the game unfolded and a victory was in sight, he ensured his players did not worry about the scoreboard.

He said in previous games this year the win was spoken of at breaks.

This time he wanted his players to simply focus on their own game and let the scoreboard take care of itself.

“We have been in that position a few times this season and we have been run over,” Thomson said.

“It was about steadying the ship and making sure we were scoring, not going too defensive early on, not worrying about the win but just the way we wanted to play our footy.

“I just said to the boys the scoreboard will take care of itself, it is just about doing what we have done the last three quarters.”

As the final siren loomed and victory was within grasp, Thomson said many thoughts were running through his head.

“We have had times, even in the last game against Tantanoola, where there was only a goal in it and we were rushing trying to get a score,” he said.

“Some of our big boys took some good marks and we just tried to lock it down.

“Previous weeks we were blazing away, turning it over and doing dumb stuff to cough the footy up.

“On Saturday I think we controlled our footy.”