THE amount of people in the change rooms following Kolora Noorat’s Warrnambool and District league football premiership win epitomised the club’s community spirit according to coach Ben Walsh.
The community aspect has been the biggest theme of the Power’s season and one that has never been lost on the playing group as it strove to add the club’s fifth premiership of its 18 year history.
They did so with a 10.8 (68) to 3.14 (32) victory over Nirranda, overcoming a slow start to reach the league’s pinnacle for the second time in the space of three years.
Post-game, Walsh stood above his club’s players and supporters and said “he could not underestimate or overplay the importance of every single person in the room”.
He said their presence was the “driving force for us, it’s why we play the way we play and that’s why we dig deep because of you people that pour your heart and soul into this joint and make it such a special place”.
Walsh said the group spoke in February “about how do we reward and how do we pay back you people, this is why and this is how” lifting the cup simultaneously to loud cheers.
“The players have really bought into it and I think you just see the amount of people here today (Saturday) and they’d be here regardless even if we had have lost they’d still be here,” he said.
“But to see the joy they get out of something like this, a small community with just so many good people that put so many hours into the club.
“I keep saying to the players they do it for us, they don’t do it for any of their own reward but we have a responsibility to give something back to them.
“And that’s just by giving great effort but ultimately I guess a premiership is the ultimate reward we can give them, so there is plenty of happy people here now.”
On the field, the Power was forced to showcase that ability to dig deep after Nirranda kicked the first three goals of the game to hold a 23 point lead halfway through the second quarter.
Slowly but surely they worked their way back into the contest, with Ben Fraser, Luke Justin and Mark Clissold kicking late goals to get Kolora Noorat within a kick at half-time.
Fraser added his second just moments into the third quarter to put the Power in front before the game entered a stalemate, with Kolora Noorat repelling multiple attacking forays from the Blues.
Luke McConnell then converted a set shot to put the Power nine points up at the nine minute mark, before Ben Reid added his first goal five minutes later to give the Power a 14 point lead at three quarter time.
Two long range goals from Nick Bourke extended Kolora Noorat’s margin to 27 points 10 minutes into the final term, with the Blues still nipping at the heels with a couple of quick behinds.
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The Power remained composed for the next 15 minutes, before Scott Judd cleaned up the crumbs of a pack at the top of the goal square to run into an open goal to seal the Power’s victory.
Fraser capped off his performance with his third and the final goal of the game, with Kolora Noorat eventually finishing 36 point winners.
Walsh said the second quarter was the game’s turning point, with his players gaining belief and confidence in their game after a slow opening.
“After the second semi we made a real commitment to play our way and early on it was hard to do that with the conditions and their pressure,” he said.
“They were really good early but probably halfway through the second quarter our leaders really stood up and we probably had a really good patch just before half-time.
“We hit the scoreboard which probably gave our players a little bit of belief that if we player our way, we’re a chance.
“I thought that was a turning point but our second half, in particular our third quarter, was outstanding and that probably won us the game.”
Walsh said the win was “pretty special” for all involved with the club.
On a personal note, the victory delivered him his first premiership as coach in his maiden season of coaching.
He also became a premiership player for the second time with the Power, having been a member of the club’s 2017 flag win.
“It probably hasn’t sunk in yet but it’s just so good seeing how happy it makes so many people,” he said.
“Not just the players but all our friends and family and all the people that put so much into the club.
“It’s going to take a while to sink in (coaching a premiership) but it’s something I’ll look back on and be pretty proud of.
“It’s pretty special.”