Sunshine Kangaroos coach Brendan Hallinan was left feeling “a little bit numb” after watching his gallant side lose Saturday’s Western Region Football League division 1 grand final in heartbreaking fashion.
The underdog Kangaroos were not given too much hope of making a contest of the grand final by the ruthless tipsters, but internally there was a real belief that they could not only challenge the mighty Deer Park, but cause an upset.
That inner belief is what made the grand final defeat harder to swallow for the Kangaroos, who came within a kick of bringing down the greatest dynasty this competition has seen.
“The football community thought we were going to get beaten by 10 goals,” Hallinan said.
“In our own way, we actually thought we can win this, there was not one player here that thought they weren’t capable of winning this premiership.
“It’s all about our grit and effort, that’s been our motto, that’s been our theme, it’s the bedrock of the Sunshine Football Club and you saw that today.
“We were a kick away from winning a premiership and standing here talking about how grit and effort wins premierships.
“We went pretty damn close.”
Hallinan was shattered with the result, but proud of how Sunshine performed.
He found it “hard to pinpoint” where the Kangaroos lost the game, though he conceded some poor entries into their forward 50 during the second quarter hurt, as did individual errors late in the game.
Otherwise, he felt that Sunshine matched Deer Park in most one-on-one contests and across all lines.
“Our inside forward 50 count was off the charts,” Hallinan said.
“We were really happy that we got lots of rebound off half-back and I thought our defenders worked their hearts out.
“Deer Park had three goalkickers only, so that tells you we covered them really well.
“I thought the midfield was 50-50, their backline and our backline were similar in a way and we converted well, which has been a problem for us most of the year.”
Young Sunshine midfielder Ben Dessent received the best-on-ground medal.
Dessent worked hard both ways for the Kangaroos, finding space on the ground where few others could and applying tremendous defensive pressure.
“To get a best on ground medal in a losing grand final team, you have to have played above and beyond what your capability is,” Hallinan said.
“He’s 19 years of age and imagine what he’s going to be like in three years time.
“This kid is electric, he’s something special.”
Hallinan has signed on to coach Sunshine for 2018.
He will be retained along with his full coaching staff and all required players have given a commitment.
The Kangaroos are a club on the rise and Hallinan cannot see his future anywhere else.
“I couldn’t be more proud as the senior coach of this football club,” he said.
“I ask a lot as a coach and everyone has stood up and answered the call.
“Everyone at our football club is invested in being the best versions of themselves and making it happen.
“I think what the Sunshine Football Club has proved to everyone is that if you’re a small community football club and you put in the effort like we have this year, you too can be right up there.
“We’ve proved it, the formula works and our game plan holds up against the best team in this competition.
“We’re looking forward to bouncing back in a positive way in 2018.”