WHY NOT US?
BRIGHT’S Mountain Men will face the ultimate test, for the ultimate reward, this Saturday when they take on Milawa in the Ovens and King Grand Final at Wangaratta’s WJ Findlay Oval. Bright coach Tom MullaneGrant said he couldn’t be more excited to have earned the chance to lead the side into the biggest match of the year.
THERE were emotional scenes in the Bright rooms after their 26-point preliminary final victory secured them a spot in the grand final to take on Milawa this Saturday.
In cold, sometimes rainy, sometimes sunny, constantly windy conditions in Tarrawingee, Bright exploded any home-ground advantage the Bulldogs may have thought they’d leverage. It was a game Bright could have played anywhere.
While Tarrawingee has held the wood over Bright this season (and the past four seasons, for that matter) with two significant victories, the Mountain Men laid waste to any remaining hopes the Bulldogs held out for a grand final spot.
While Tarrawingee was competitive in parts, and nervously close on the scoreboard all the way into the final quarter, Bright was a side possessed, and no team less than Milawa was going to get in their way.
The Mountain Men, wearing their special indigenous-inspired jumpers, came out as if no history had ever existed between the two clubs, and got an early break over the home side.
A 5.2 (32) to 2.4 (16) quarter was closer than the scoreboard let on, but accuracy up forward and pressure down back was the key for the Mountain Men.
The second quarter slowed to a grind, yet Bright continued to dominate forward entries. Their 2.6 (18) simultaneously extended the margin while keeping the Bulldogs in the game, who managed 2.0 (12) themselves.
The 7.8 (50) to 4.4 (28) lead Bright took into half-time would be crucial, as running out for the third quarter the wind straightened behind the backs of Tarrawingee and their scoring started to gather speed.
While Bright struggled to convert into the breeze kicking 0.4 (4), the Bulldogs sent the ball long and had the Bright defenders scrambling to limit the damage.
Last minute call up into the senior ranks, hardman defender Nathan Smith suffered an ugly injury, desperately running back and across in front of an advancing contest, effecting the spoil but dislocating his elbow at the same time, and was taken off the ground in significant pain.
For the quarter Tarrawingee kicked 4.3 (27) to take back a fingernail one-point lead at the three-quarter time siren.
If the one-point lead to Tarrawingee had Bright supporters nervous, the Bulldogs kicking a quick opening goal of the last quarter didn’t help.
From that moment on, however, Bright looked composed and dangerous. Forward entries started to flow and scoring soon followed.
Crucial marks and set shot goals by Bright coach Tom Mullane-Grant started to put the game firmly in Bright’s hands.
Mullane-Grant would finish with five goals despite spending parts of the game winning centre clearances or working across half-back.
While Tarrawingee managed a second goal in the last quarter to give them some hope, Bright’s 6.5 (41) took the game away.
The strong finish was the perfect end to a preliminary final and also the perfect start to a grand final week, where 21 Bright players prepare for arguably the biggest week of their football careers.
In the Bright rooms postmatch, packed with family and supporters, tremendous relief was mixed with excitement as Mullane-Grant addressed the players, making special mention of club stalwart Bradley Nightingale who has missed the finals due to injury.
The Ovens and King grand final between Bright and Milawa starts at 2.15pm this Saturday at the WJ Findlay Oval in Wangaratta.
PRESSURE COOKER: Bright tough nut Nick Howell kicks the ball out of congestion in the Mountain Men’s preliminary final win on Saturday.