THE Wangaratta Rovers enjoyed a thrilling nine-point triumph over Yarrawonga in the thirds grand final, led by a scintillating performance from ruckman Ed Dayman.
After holding a comfortable lead midway through the third quarter, the Rovers were given the fright of their lives after the Pigeons surged back into the contest.
Just three points separated the two sides at the final break, after Yarrawonga surged back from as much as 25 points behind in the third quarter.
They were quick out of the gate in the final quarter too, winning a lot of the ball early.
Despite having much of the play, the Pigeons couldn’t turn it into goals – both teams traded behinds until the dying minutes of the quarter.
Enter Dayman, who had been among the best in the first three quarters, but took the game by the scruff of the neck when it was there to be won.
The Leo Dean medallist took a towering mark in the riverside pocket in the last five minutes, before slotting a very difficult goal on a tight angle to give the Rovers some breathing room.
He continued to stand tall as the Pigeons looked to answer back, taking another crucial mark at half-back.
Fittingly, the ball was in his hands when the final siren went, having taken another crucial grab at centre-half forward.
Dayman took out both the Brett Kirk medal and AFL Vic Country medal for best on ground, capping a terrific week for the rising star.
Under immense pressure at three-quarter time, Rovers coach Jason Gorman said his players had stood tall when it counted.
“We decided in the box that we’d played one way all year – let’s continue to do that,” he said.
“It didn’t actually turned out that way – we tried to keep running and gunning, keep the ball moving at any cost, and we were able to ground out a win.”
Gorman couldn’t have had more praise for his match-winning ruckman.
“We spoke about the moments – everyone gets a chance to have a moment in a grand final, and when those moments come, we had all 22 of the standing up,” he said.
“We’re trying to develop a club from here.
“We really value the under 18 program and (senior coaches) Ross Hill and Sam Carpenter have been outstanding in the way they’ve supported us.”
In addition to Dayman, the likes of Riley Calvene, Cade Gorman and Lachlan Moore were among the Rovers’ best.
Sam Allen, Tyler Harrington and Regan Gorman booted two goals each, while the Pigeons were lead by Sam Mickleson’s three majors.
Isaac McMillan and William Woodburn also impressed for Yarrawonga.
Flanked by teammates and family after the game, a jubilant Dayman said it had been a whirlwind week.
“It’s pretty unreal – I’m surprised by it all, it’s come on so fast,” he said.
It’s pretty unreal – I’m surprised by it all, it’s come on so fast.Ed Dayman
“They came back, we just to keep a cool head and work to get that lead back out.
“I wasn’t sure I could kick that goal (from the pocket), it was just the luck of the day.”