KIEWA-Sandy Creek coach Ryan Richardson praised his team’s self-belief after the Hawks produced a barnstorming finish to edge out Thurgoona by three points in a fiery qualifying final at Sandy Creek on Saturday.
Trailing by four goals with eight minutes remaining, the minor premier charged home with Tim Hallinan nailing a goal seconds before the final siren to put the Hawks into the grand final.
Richardson said he was continually amazed by his players’ fighting spirit.
“It was great,” Richardson said.
“To come back from four goals down with 10 minutes left just shows the self-belief in this group.
“They just back themselves to win from any position.
“We were in big trouble but found a way.
“I can’t remember a win like it.”
Less than a goal separated Kiewa-Sandy Creek and Thurgoona at the first three changes before the Bulldogs made their move with brothers Aydan and Kade Brown leading the way.
Jake Way was on top of Jye Shields, Mark Bush had kept Leigh Cameron quiet and Jason Sheather’s charges looked to have more run in their legs.
Then the game turned on its head.
Big forward Guy Telford exploded inside 50 metres with Jason and Scott Bartel, Adam Telford and Tory Ziems also presenting themselves well around the ground.
Ruckman Luke Norton-Smith was another to step up as the Hawks pinched an unlikely victory through late goals to Guy Telford (two), Jason Bartel and Hallinan.
Richardson claimed Kiewa-Sandy Creek were well below their best for most of the match.
“I don’t think we could have played any worse,” he said.
“We fumbled and turned the ball over and there is a lot of room for improvement.”
Kiewa-Sandy Creek lost Peter Winnett in the opening quarter with a broken jaw while Thurgoona went into the clash without backman Mark Haydon who was wearing a moon boot at Saturday’s match.