A phenomenal defensive effort paved the way to victory for Kiwis as they ended Workies’ eight year Tamworth men’s premiership reign in dramatic fashion on Sunday.
It took 100 minutes though for them to overcome the premiers, Kiwis captain Josh Worpel’s penalty stroke mid-way through the first half of the second period of extra time proving the difference as they prevailed 4-3 to claim just their third premiership and their first since 2006.
“I’ve won state and national championships before but this is better than that,” a weary but elated Worpel said.
“This is my eighth or ninth year in grade and I’ve never won a premiership.”
Five of the side – Mitch Burrows, Craig Mackay, Greg Doolan, Martin Courtney and Craig Unger were there in 2006, when they incidentally also went to extra-time.
Stepping up to take the stroke, Worpel said his plan was to “just fire it into the corner”.
“If he was going to save it, it was going to take a brilliant save,” he said.
They then had to really dig in to hold onto the their lead with Workies coming hard at them as they searched for an equaliser. As the minor premiers a draw would have been enough.
But as they had done throughout the game Kiwis’ defence repelled them. Time after time they thwarted Workies’ raids, Worpel and Alex Taggart at the back getting countless crucial touches.
“I said going in our defence if we got that right we’d be in it,” Worpel said.
“Marty (Courtney) had a brilliant game and that led through the field to Tags (Taggart). He was just phenomenal.”
“But everyone put it all on the line. I can’t fault anyone’s effort.”
They gang-tackled Workies, especially in and around the circle, employing multiple defenders on the Workies ball carriers.
“We had bodies in motion. Everyone was getting back and getting on their ball carriers,” Worpel said.
Like he did in the preliminary final, Mitch Burrows ignited Kiwis with a couple of magic early touches.
His first goal was by his own admission one of his best, and came after a great run from Taggart through the middle and quick release to Burrows, who jinked to beat the keeper and fired the ball into the back of the net.
He made it 2-nil a minute later after another long searching ball from the defence found him in space up front. Isaac Farmilo dragged Workies back into it, literally, but a late goal to Unger gave Kiwis a 3-1 lead at half-time.
Nick Chaffey closed the gap to one again only a couple of minutes into the second half, before Farmilo slotted his second to level the scores and set up a pulsating and enthralling final 20 minutes. And it was with both sides having their chances and pulling off goal-saving efforts.
The stalemate then continued for another 20 minutes sending the game into a second period of extra-time.
It was Kiwis first appearance in the grand final since 2012 when they were beaten by Workies.