A DOMINANT second half was the key to Albury breaking a 40-year hoodoo in the O and M under-18 grand final.
The minor premiers, finished two games clear at the end of the home-and-away season and were 100-point winners of the semi-final, but they trailed by eight points against-killing Lavington at half-time.
The Tigers then kicked seven goals to three to win by 20 points.
The Tigers endured a heart-breaking three-point loss in the decider last year.
Albury’s Sam Crawshaw was best on ground ahead of teammate Sam Cresser and with Lavington’s Brandon Beesley.
Coach Neale Poole said his midfield and better weather were responsible for the big second half.
“We didn’t handle the greasy conditions in the first half but we used our speed and ball movement as it dried out,” he said.
“It wasn’t our best footy in the first half but the boys dug deep, like good teams do.”
“Along with Crawshaw, the captain Alex Rowe was fantastic, as was Will McIntosh in the ruck.
“We brought Chris Bridle on to move Cody Parker forward and shore up the back line and he had his best game of the year.”
Poole said the win was a relief after a dominant home-and-away season and one game in a month.
“That was our only game in the last month. We came home better than them so perhaps it worked in our favour,” he said.
Panthers coach Kerry Bahr believed his emerging squad could go one better next year.
Having won just one game in the first six rounds, Lavington charged through the second half of the year and from fifth spot in the finals.
“At three-quarter-time, I thought we were going to run over the top of them but they are a good side and showed why they have been the team to beat,” Bahr said.
“We played well early but we made crucial mistakes at critical times — a turnover here, a missed mark there.
“We hope to been where Albury is time next year.
“This young group will be better for the experience. They know what finals footy is about now.”