It was relief and belief in equal measure when Kilcunda Bass defeated Garfield at Bass Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
The two-point win was the Panthers’ first of the season and their first since round two of last year.
Coach Damien Holmes admitted some players were short on words when it came time to sing the song, but that didn’t diminish the enthusiasm for, or the significance of, the final result.
“It’s been a long time coming and it’s a pretty new group as well,” Holmes said.
“In the game against Inverloch before the bye we should have been much closer than the scoreline suggested and we drew a lot of confidence from how well we matched it with them. The boys have been training really well and were pretty confident going into the game.
“It’s a bit of reward for the effort everyone has been putting in and the guys now honestly know they can match it in this competition.”
It was tight contest from the outset and while the home side trailed at quarter time, its two goals against the breeze proved crucial.
The Panthers made the most of the advantage in the second term to lead by 14 points at the main change, while the Stars struggled to convert their chances into goals – an issue that would plague them for much of the game.
The visitors wrestled back the lead by three quarter time and kicked the opening goal of the final term, but Kilcunda Bass stuck to its task and after a few missed opportunities finally found a way to goal – and the lead – through leader Taylor Gibson.
A tense final few minutes were eventually broken by the welcome sound of the final siren.
“The ball was in their forward line for a good minute or so but fortunately we created a few stoppages and were able to hold on in the end,” Holmes said.
“We had to be smarter with the wind and we panicked a few times but it was really satisfying to get across the line.
“Both groups are really young and it was a good contest all day between two teams that wanted the footy.”
The win lifted the Panthers off the foot of the ladder and could serve as a springboard for their season, with matchups against ninth-placed Korumburra Bena and winless Warragul Industrials to come in the next two weeks.
Twenty-year-old full back Riley Cousins continues to impress and was best on ground in just his 12th senior game, while fellow young gun Luke Callander and the more experienced Connor Steel were also prominent in the 7.6 (48) to 6.10 (46) win.
Nicholas Macente, Dan Clebney and Tyler McDonald were best for the Stars, who remain eighth on the ladder, with three wins from their seven games.
The Panthers also broke their drought on the netball court, with a 41-26 win.
Elsewhere, Phillip Island issued another stern warning to the rest of the competition, with a ruthless 116-point dismantling of Nar Nar Goon.
The Bulldogs rattled off six goals to one in the opening term, including three to superstar Zak Vernon.
Vernon and fellow gun Brendan Kimber finished with six goals each, while Cam Pedersen, Alex Duyker and Marcus Wright were among the other standouts in the 23.18 (156) to 6.4 (40) win.
Lachy Hansen booted two goals on his return from suspension and was among the Goon’s better performers, along with Mat Slattery and Trent Armour while Troy McDermott contributed three goals as the visitors tumbled back out of the top five.
It was better news for the Goon on the netball court, where Hollie Keysers shot the lights out with 43 goals in a 64-30 win.
Bridget Turner converted 20 shots for the home side.
Warragul Industrials was the big winner in round seven of the A Grade competition with the Dusties claiming a vital win in the race for the top five.
The visitors trailed Koo Wee Rup by two goals at half-time but a change in attack turned the game in their favour.
Lara Commadeur moved to goal shooter alongside Ella Spencer and the pair combined for 24 goals to pinch the win 45-42 and help the Dusties leapfrog the Demons into seventh spot on the ladder.
Melissa Filarski shot 33 goals for the home side.
On the football field, the Demons produced their most complete performance of the season to defeat the Dusties 17.14 (116) to 4.14 (38).
Nathan Muratore and skipper Tim Miller starred, while Jason Wells (five goals), Darren Sheen and Nathan Voss (three apiece) did the majority of the damage on the scoreboard.
The Dusties were their own worst enemy with four goals from 18 scoring shots but Cooper Hampton, Michael Ablett and Tyson Bale battled hard.
Inaccuracy was more costly for Korumburra Bena, which was overrun by Bunyip in blustery conditions at Korumburra Showgrounds.
The Giants started like a house-on-fire, piling on four goals to none but the margin perhaps should have been far greater given they amassed 12 scoring shots to zero.
Bunyip hit back to be within five points at the main change and restricted the home side to one goal and five behinds in the third before storming home with six goals to none in the last to win 12.10 (82) to 6.15 (51).
Backman Damien Szwaja produced his best performance of the season, while Aaron Paxton continued his strong form with four goals as the Bulldogs snuck back into the five.
Emmanuel Jakwot, Brad Monson and Ben Fitzpatrick were best for the Giants.
The Giants took the points on the netball court, winning 59-35 and handing the Yips just their second loss for the season.
Nathan Gardiner extended his lead on the WGFNC goalkicking chart with seven goals in Cora Lynn’s 22.19 (151) to 3.6 (24) win against Dalyston.
The 190cm forward took his season tally to 37, five clear of Tooradin Dalmore forward Andrew Dean, as the Cobras stretched their unbeaten start to the campaign to eight games.
Heath Briggs (four goals), Troy Tharle and Chris Johnson were also prominent in the win, with Declan Kelly, Blake Carew and Darcy Brosnan among the standouts for the Magpies.
Dalyston had to shake a determined Cobras outfit on the netball court.
Scores were level at half-time and the home side was within four goals at the final change before the two-time reigning premier surged clear to win 56-42.
Finally, Tooradin Dalmore secured arguably its biggest win since joining the competition after emerging victorious in a sea birds shootout with Inverloch Kongwak.
The Seagulls hit the ground with six goals to two in the opening term, before the game settled into a pattern in the second term, with five goals apiece.
The Sea Eagles rallied with the first three goals of the third term to get within five points before the home side responded in kind to restore its four-goal buffer heading into the final break.
The visitors shaded the final term three goals to two, but fell short 16.10 (106) to 14.4 (88).
Lewis Hill continued his rapid development with three goals in a best on ground performance, while Michael Hobbs and Andrew Proctor also caught the eye for Tooradin Dalmore.
Toby Mahoney, Cam Roughead and Dan Reid (three goals) were best for the Sea Eagles.
The win lifted the Seagulls above Inverloch Kongwak into third spot, though the latter still has a game in hand and boasts a superior percentage.
Tooradin Dalmore kept marching on with an eighth straight win in the A Grade netball competition.
The ladder leading Seagulls saw off finals contending Inverloch Kongwak 46-25, leaving the Sea Eagles in sixth place and trailing fifth placed Nar Nar Goon on percentage.
The pick of the round eight matches is once again at Bass Recreation Reserve, where Kilcunda Bass takes on Korumburra Bena in the Gus James Cup.
Named after the late father of former premiership player Luke James, the cup aims to raise awareness for mental health issues in the community and is supported by sporting club program Outside The Locker Room.
Elsewhere, the clashes between Tooradin Dalmore and Bunyip and Inverloch Kongwak and Koo Wee Rup pits third against fifth and fourth against sixth.
On the netball court, we have a grand final rematch between Dalyston and Phillip Island, frontrunner Tooradin Dalmore faces this season’s big improver, Bunyip, and there are two matches that could prove significant in the race for the top five, with Inverloch Kongwak hosting Koo Wee Rup and Nar Nar Goon travelling to Western Park to take on the Dusties.