NATHALIA created history at Finley Recreation Reserve on Saturday, when it won its fifth consecutive Murray football league senior premiership against a gritty Tongala side.
The 45 point win to the Purples saw them take out their 10th flag in 15 years, a fantastic effort considering the team is made up solely from local players.
“All of our players played junior footy here at Nathalia apart from four, however they went to school here,” Nathalia coach Mal Barnes said.
“We had a great mix of young and older experienced players and we all know each other really well, which helps with developing the side,” said Barnes who had coached his first ever premiership win.
“I said to the boys, it’s a matter of staying the journey, it might happen in the first quarter or it might happen in the last five minutes of the game. That’s what our mantra has been all season,” said Barnes.
Blustery conditions met the sides early on and it was hard work moving the ball forward.
The deadlock was broken when Ash Quinn slotted home the first goal of the game and Nathalia took a seven point lead into the first break.
The second quarter was much like the first, however Nathalia appeared to handle the strong cross ground wind better, with Ricky Barnes giving the Purples first use of the ball.
Tom Byrnes entered the fray to take contested marks, and kick two goals, whilst Bailey Bell, Alex Hicks and Tom Nihill were influential, winning countless possessions to drive the Purples forward.
Nathalia extended its lead to 23 points at the main break, restricting the Blues to one goal in the first half.
Both teams came out firing after the break, and the game lifted a notch in physicality, which saw the Purples’ captain, Tom Nihill, leave the field with a shoulder injury after being crunched by a Tongala player, not returning for the remainder of the match.
Tongala scored the first goal of the third quarter to close the gap, however Nathalia responded with two goals to Bailey Bell in a best afield performance.
Brodie Ross was getting on top in the ruck, while Ryan Butler, Drew Barnes and Alex Hicks started taking control.
A combined nine goals were scored in the third quarter and the Purples took a 27 point lead into the last break.
The final quarter saw the wind die down slightly and Nathalia take full control, with clean hands at ground level and strong hands in the air.
Bell kicked the first of the quarter, snapping truly after a three bounce run.
Sixteen year old Ben Armstrong, playing his first full year at senior level, kicked his first goal for the seniors in the final quarter and had the players and supporters cheering from all levels.
“It was fantastic to kick my first goal for the seniors in the grand final,” Armstrong said.
“It was really exciting and a fantastic win for us.”
Nathalia held Tongala goalless in the last quarter, whilst booting another three, to take an unprecedented fifth straight senior flag.
Bailey Bell, with his four goals and tireless ground work, was judged the VCFL medallist in an outstanding display.
Liam Evans, who had a great year, was named player of the finals.
The senior premiership was a first for young Nathalia players Harrison Hawks, Clancy Congues, Armstong and Tom Byrnes, who had won a senior premiership with Picola previously.
They were ecstatic after the final siren, soaking up the atmosphere with Purples mainstays, Jason Limbrick, nine premierships, Ash Quinn and Brett Vallender, each with eight.
“It’s a feeling of relief that we finally did it,” an excited Clancy Congues said.
“We trained at Katandra, prior to the Congupna match and it was quite windy, very similar to the conditions we had today, which worked in our favour, however, we played well and we knew our best would beat their best.”
The boys continued their celebrations with a parade around Nathalia on Monday.
There was a procession down the main street with the boys piling into trailers and tractors and visiting the hospital and Barwo, reflecting that it truly is a community effort.
“The whole town is involved, the community gets behind us and it’s fantastic,” said Barnes.
Best Players: Bailey Bell; Alex Hicks; Brodie Ross; Ash Quinn; Ryan Butler; Tom Nihill; Ricky Barnes; Clancy Congues; Tom Byrnes.