EMERGING force Rand-Walbundrie clinched its biggest victory since its 2006 merger, claiming the prized scalp of previous ladder leaders Henty at Walbundrie on Saturday.
The Tigers made the finals in their inaugural season and most recently in 2009.
With the merged identity being yet to win a final, their 11.13 (79) to 6.8 (44) over a genuine flag contender is easily their biggest statement under coach Daniel Athanitis.
Make no mistake, the second-placed Tigers already have one hand on a prized top-two finish and will be the X-factor come September with legitimate flag aspirations.
Athanitis said a fighting loss against Brock-Burrum last week, coupled with Saturday’s impressive victory would do wonders for the Tigers’ self-belief.
“That’s easily our biggest win since I took the coaching reins last season,” he said.
“It’s probably even our biggest win since merging considering we are yet to win a final.
“Despite getting beat by Brock-Burrum, we got a lot of confidence last week.
“We were right in the match and probably just lacked a bit of polish at crucial times.
“We walked away thinking we’re not that far away from the top sides — and we proved that on Saturday.”
The Tigers’ defence was the cornerstone of the break-through victory, with Brian Lieschke, Aaron Gordon and Luke Emmerton outstanding in the back half.
The trio were instrumental in restricting the Swampies to one goal in the second and third quarters.
Gordon kept Swampies’ dangerman Shannon Terlich goalless while Lieschke was also superb on spearhead Ryan Hon, who was kept to one goal.
Tom Simmons was handed to tagging role on Swampies ball magnet Heath Ohlin, who struggled to assert his usual influence.
“I think our defence has been superb for the past month,” Athanitis said.
“They have only conceded eight, eight, 12 and six goals and has been a real focus of ours.”
Athanitis said while the Tig-ers still had a lot of work to do, they would be further strengthened by Justin Dickson, Charlie Williams, Mark Kreutzberger, Jordan Trethowan and another Canberra recruit in Matt Dean in coming weeks.
The Swampies unveiled man mountain Roy Jacques in his first match of the season, but had a limited impact in the ruck.
Jacques hasn’t played since Queanbeyan’s 2012 flag triumph and will only get better with match fitness.
Osborne and Jindera had little trouble overcoming Billabong Crows and Murray Magpies by 33 and 36 points respectively, both in away games.
Brock-Burrum consolidated third spot with a 51-point win over Culcairn at Culcairn while Holbrook smashed Walla by 91 points at Walla.