It was a wild ride for the Western Jets in the NAB League this season, but it came to an end with a 35-point loss to Gippsland Power in the semi-final at Ikon Park on Saturday.
The Jets had dreams of going all the way in the finals, but a semi-final exit was about right for what they delivered in the season on the whole.
Jets football operations manager Matthew Dervan was pleased with how his side acquitted themselves during the finals, including wins in the wildcard round and the elimination final.
“It’s what the game is all about, showing what you can do at this time of the year,” he said.
“We faced some formidable opposition over the past three weeks and I think the boys will learn a lot from the experience and take it into wherever their next football journey is.
“There were a few boys who upped their level of performance at the right time of the year when there’s more scrutiny and more eyes from the AFL clubs.”
Western Jets made a positive start to the semi-final and led by five points at quarter-time.
However, scoring dried up for the Jets in the second and third quarters as they could only manage two behinds while the Power kicked out to a 39-point lead by three-quarter time.
“We definitely started the better of the two sides,” Dervan said.
“We led at quarter-time and there was a really confident and positive vibe heading into the first break.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t sustain it.”
Gippsland strangled the life out of the Western Jets after quarter-time.
The Power’s defence has conceded on average 59 points a game this season and it turned up the heat once again.
“Despite trying a few different methods of attack, we just weren’t good enough,” Dervan said.
“Credit to Gippsland’s back six and defensive structure, they were just too good for us on the day.”
As is the case every season, there is a high volume of turnover for all NAB League clubs.
Knowing victory was a long shot, the Jets knew the fourth quarter would be the last for a number of their star top-age players.
O’Keefe implored his team to give one last push – particularly those featuring in a Jets jumper for the last time – to finish on a high.
The Jets out-scored Gippsland in the fourth quarter, kicking four goals to three.
“Some of the guys have put two or three years of really hard work into the program,” Dervan said.
“Ryan challenged them at three-quarter time to not let themselves down and show something in that last quarter and finish on a high note.
“I think we did that pretty well.”
Daly Andrews finished his Jets career off with a best-on-ground performance.
The midfield ball magnet also kicked two goals – one of only two Jets players on the day to kick multiple goals, with the other being Archi Manton.
“He worked tirelessly as an inside mid,” Dervan said.