Dis­ap­point­ing end

Co­bram looks ahead to next year af­ter bow­ing out of fi­nals

The Cobram Courier - - SPORT - By Patrick Tansey

Nu­murkah may have de­feated Co­bram by 29 points in its semi­fi­nal on Satur­day at Lons­dale Re­serve in Mul­wala, but the boys in yel­low and black cer­tainly didn’t lose any fans in the af­ter­math.

The Tigers’ pre­mier­ship dreams es­sen­tially went up in smoke in one dis­mal quar­ter.

Nu­murkah pro­duced a blis­ter­ing open­ing term, pil­ing on six goals to Co­bram’s one.

It was night­mare start for Co­bram and there was a sense of de´ ja` vu fol­low­ing a near iden­ti­cal open­ing to the qual­i­fy­ing fi­nal against Nathalia a week ear­lier.

‘‘Two weeks in a row we were prob­a­bly just wait­ing for things to hap­pen rather than tak­ing on the game early,’’ Co­bram coach Josh Noonan lamented.

In the first term it ap­peared that a lethar­gic and ten­ta­tive Co­bram was car­ry­ing a psy­cho­log­i­cal bur­den af­ter be­ing rav­aged by in­jury against the Pur­ples the pre­vi­ous week.

The Tigers lost their spine, with de­fend­ers Nathan Hart­ley, Steve Smith and Mitch Rich­man forced to sit out with in­jury, while key play­maker Cadeyn Wil­liams could not re­cover in time from a knee in­jury.

‘‘As much as I tried not to make a point of it (in­juries) go­ing in to the match, I’ve got no doubt it prob­a­bly played a part in our slow start,’’ Noonan said.

‘‘But once they set­tled, they re­alised what they could do and they took it up to them.’’

With a Co­bram back­line de­void of ex­pe­ri­ence, Nu­murkah for­wards Ben Gun­ning (five goals), Bradley Vas­sal (four) and Nathan Hicks (three) ran riot for the Blues.

The in­jury cri­sis meant Co­bram was forced to field eight play­ers who are el­i­gi­ble to play un­der-17s and the lack of ex­pe­ri­ence was telling early when the heat in the con­test was scold­ing.

The young Tigers were falling down with their struc­tures at stop­pages and Nu­murkah seemed to pounce on ev­ery lit­tle mis­take in the first term, with the Blues’ mid­field run­ning freely and pro­vid­ing sil­ver ser­vice to their for­wards.

It wasn’t un­til an Adam De Cicco snap late in the first quar­ter that the Tigers showed any po­tency in the for­ward half.

The Tigers looked shell­shocked at quar­ter-time af­ter be­ing blown out of the wa­ter, but this de­vel­op­ing group of play­ers dis­played its bur­geon­ing ma­tu­rity af­ter that point.

A huge blowout looked im­mi­nent, but the Tigers ral­lied strongly af­ter quar­ter-time and won the re­main­ing three quar­ters by three points.

They clawed their way back in to the con­test in the sec­ond quar­ter but truly came to life in the third, kick­ing four goals to Nu­murkah’s two.

Darcy Mc­Cor­mack (three goals) pro­duced a mo­ment of magic, kick­ing a ba­nana from the bound­ary line, and a Tom Scott thun­der­bolt from 40 m in­jected some be­lief into the Co­bram camp.

The Tigers were trailing by 40 points at three-quar­ter time and Noonan im­plored his troops to keep fight­ing, say­ing stranger things had hap­pened in games of foot­ball.

They re­sponded to their coach’s mes­sage and again kicked four goals to the Blues’ two, but it wasn’t enough. The dam­age done in the first quar­ter proved in­sur­mount­able.

While there was dis­ap­point­ment in the rooms af­ter the game, Noonan said he couldn’t have been prouder of the way his troops fought out the game and ap­plied them­selves dur­ing the sea­son.

‘‘There’s been so much nat­u­ral im­prove­ment within the group this year, let alone the young kids who have played se­nior foot­ball who are only 15,16 and 17 — they’ve got so much footy still ahead of them,’’ he said.

Co­bram’s nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion this year has been starkly ev­i­dent for its sup­port­ers to see, and Noonan said he would only look at the year pos­i­tively.

He said the Tigers fin­ished roughly where they de­served to.

‘‘I think we got the most we could out of the group. There were games we missed out on and games we pinched,’’ he said.

‘‘Go­ing from eight wins last sea­son to 13 this year is a big step. Play­ing fi­nals is a step in the right direc­tion. Ex­pos­ing these kids to fi­nals foot­ball is a ma­jor bonus and hav­ing the group start­ing to re­ally play for one an­other was also pleas­ing.

‘‘Go­ing in to next year, we should have a stronger be­lief in our own ex­pec­ta­tions now.’’

Give and go: Tiger Nick Dore looks to dish off a hand­ball against the Blues on Satur­day. Pic­tures: Leonie Bourke

Pow­er­ful: Co­bram’s Tom Scott was mag­nif­i­cent all game.

Out in space: Tiger Sam Beasley was one of his side’s bet­ter play­ers.

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