That the AFL North West preliminary final clash between Gunnedah and New England came down to the final kick of the game was as fitting as it was cruel.
Gunnedah led at every change of end but just five points separated the two sides heading into the final quarter of a high quality game of Aussie rules.
As the full-time siren sounded the Bulldogs led by a paltry four points.
But there was to be one last play after the Nomads had been awarded a free kick near the 50-metre arc just before the siren went off.
“I heard the siren and I started celebrating then I realised they had a free kick and quickly spun around to see how far out it was,” Bulldogs coach Andrew George said of the final moments of the match.
“I didn’t know how far Snowy [Shane Snowden] kicks but he’s a pretty solid guy so I thought if he got onto one [it could have gone through].
“Our whole 18 were just about standing on the goal line. We were lining up blokes to jump on.”
The kick came up short and the Dogs clung on to set up a grand final clash with the Inverell Saints on Saturday, September 8 at Inverell.
Gunnedah had led by 19 points at the first two breaks before the Nomads rallied in the second half.
Coach James Treweeke stated how his side’s third quarters had been a “sore point” this year but on Saturday it’s where New England shined.
A goal to Dave Richards and two to Angus Quail saw the Nomads surge while also holding the Bulldogs to just the one major.
The Bulldogs then rebounded and stretched their lead back to 21 points midway through the final term before holding on to win.
It was the Gunnedah of old who turned up on Saturday after the reigning premiers hadn’t won in close to a month with back-to-back losses to Inverell.
An “over the moon” George put the re-found form down to numbers.
“It’s the first time we’ve had 22, I think, since the time we played the Roos in the night game [on July 21],” he said.
“It’s a killer when you don’t have a full side and bench to work with.
“I think that was the difference, having a bit of a bench to lean on.”
Amongst those 22, George singled out a number of players who put their hand up for best on ground honours.
Along with the “usual suspects” in Jacob Spackman, who snared five goals, and captain Ben Maher, who played a tagging role on the dangerous Dave Richards, George also singled out Isaac Reeves and Mark Barrow for praise.