An ambitious late comeback attempt by Spotswood has come up agonisingly short in a three-point first semi-final defeat to Hoppers Crossing in Western Region Football League division 1.
The Woodsmen had kicked only one goal up until three-quarter time and trailed 30 points at Avalon Airport Oval on Sunday.
But coach Anthony Eames threw the magnets around and found the right formula to launch a stunning comeback.
But even a five-goal-to-one last quarter was not enough to atone for a dismal first three quarters as the Woodsmen came up short by a kick.
Eames rued the wasted three quarters.
“We got beaten for three quarters and ran them ragged in the last quarter, but still got beat,” he said.
“If we don’t put in four quarters, and this is the thing for every club at this level, you’re not going to win.”
After a flat start, Spotswood worked its way back into the contest in the second quarter, but failure to convert proved costly. The Woodsmen could only manage one goal from six scoring shots to half-time and trailed by 11 at the main break.
Hoppers Crossing was dominant in the third quarter, opening up a five-goal lead.
But it is not in Spotswood’s DNA to simply roll over. With some fans already long headed for the exits, the Woodsmen produced a remarkable final quarter.
“The message at three-quarter time was that when we played Hoppers at home, we were six goals and they were one at three-quarter time and they beat us,” Eames said. “Things can turn, but we have to take some risks.”
The key to the fightback was young ruckman Matthew Rix, who gave the Woodsmen onballers first use of the ball, dominating the clearances for the quarter.
Murray Boyd’s move forward created heightened attention in the Hoppers Crossing defence, drawing two or three players into his vicinity and allowing other Woodsmen forward to slip the leash. Goals to Gareth Newton, James Beilby, Dylan Callard, Nayef Hamad and Brandon Walshe got the Woodsmen within touching distance.
But despite the late flurry, Eames concedes the Woodsmen got their just desserts.
“At the end of the day, we were probably lucky to get as close as we did,” he said.
Asked if he was proud of Spotswood’s willingness to fight it out when all looked lost, Eames could not answer, his emotions running wild on a day when his side delivered its best and worst in the space of three hours.
Last season, Spotswood made the finals, but bombed out in straight sets. This year, they won a final and made further progress with a young, developing side laden with homegrown players.
Eames had no hesitation re-signing with the club for 2019 and is excited about seeing where the group will be in 12 months.
“We’ve got some terrific young kids in our group and it’s a great footy club Spotswood,” he said.