Liam Durkin

Woodside players and supporters cut reflective figures in the aftermath of their defeat in the North Gippsland Football-Netball League Grand Final.

The Wildcats had fought valiantly in their maiden NGFNL Grand Final attempt a fortnight ago, only to fall short to Traralgon Tyers United, who completed an unbeaten season as premiers and champions.

In a Grand Final where only six goals were kicked, Woodside gave the Bombers plenty to think about when they had two goals to none on the board at the main break. The Wildcats lead may have only been 10 points, but it certainly gave them the confidence of a side ahead by so much more.

That TTU didn’t score their first goal until midway through the third quarter gave eventual rise to the thought of just how many teams have gone on to win the premiership without scoring a goal in the first half.

There wouldn’t be many … if any.

Goals were certainly at a premium in the Grand Final, and Woodside was the one who didn’t score any in the second half. The scoreboard at full time read 4.14 (38) to 2.8 (20). TTU had not only won the premiership, but survived the scare of being ‘that’ team that doesn’t lose a game all season until the Grand Final.

The premiership was sealed at the 21-minute mark of the final term, after Bombers captain Jye Neilsen kicked a goal from point-blank range. TTU had 10 minutes to celebrate, Woodside, just as long to play the game out.

At the final siren, with the throng of TTU supporters gathering around victorious players, the Wildcats formed a huddle of their own.

Coach Michael Duncan spoke, and he did again inside the change rooms after graciously sitting through the presentation.

His Morwell premiership teammate Jack Brown was on stage accepting the premiership cup as TTU coach. From teammates to opponents, how much can change in football. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner.

The Wildcats appeared to be overcome with a sense of calm in the immediate aftermath. TTU had been the only opposition Woodside lost to all season, and while they would have dearly loved a premiership, there was certainly no shame about the way in which they had performed on Grand Final day.

There was also much to celebrate. Woodside won netball premierships from A Grade to C Grade just hours earlier. For a club from a town that consists of a pub and not much else, to have that much representation on Grand Final day was victory in itself.

A senior Grand Final added another step to the ladder that has been the journey of the Woodside senior team since Duncan took over as coach in 2020.

When he took over, the Wildcats had won just five games the year before. They’ve nearly won as many games in finals sine then.

Sentimental support was certainly with the Wildcats in Heyfield on Grand Final day. Testimonials from past players were splashed on the walls of the change rooms, while signs carrying the slogan “which side? Woodside” were out in full force.

As Duncan addressed the playing group in the privacy of the rooms postgame, he said words to the effect there was not another team in the league he would rather coach.

Such thoughts evoked a moment from the closing scene of the film Coach Carter.

In the film, the basketball coach speaks to his team, the Richmond Oilers following defeat in a final. Coach Carter says he is proud of their efforts despite he result, before ending with the team chant “Rich-what … Richmond”.

“Which side?”