By David Nagel
Warragul Industrials is just one win away from a remarkable appearance in the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition grand final after toiling long and hard for a courageous first semi-final victory over Cora Lynn.
The Dusties were held scoreless in the opening term – and weathered an early storm for the second week running – before turning the tables to qualify for a preliminary final against Phillip Island with a gritty and grinding 7.4(46) to 4.7(31) victory at Cora Lynn.
The Dusties rapid rise has been incredible, after finishing in last place, with just two wins on the board, the most recent time we completed a full season in 2019.
“It’s amazing, the steps we’ve taken and how far we’ve come, the people we’ve brought into the club have all bought in, and I guess this is what you can do if you bring the right people into a football club,” said star midfielder Shane Brewster.
“During the year we’ve had plenty of meetings about what’s gone right and what’s gone wrong and what’s not working, but at this stage everyone has bought in and we’ve decided to have a red-hot tilt at it.
“I didn’t think I’d see this in my time at the club, but I am and I couldn’t be happier.”
Cora Lynn kicked the only goal of the first quarter at the five-minute mark of the term, through Cory Machaya.
Michael Ablett had the job on the dangerous goal-sneak, while Wilson McGillivray was given the huge task of quelling the influence of Nathan Gardiner, who kicked eight goals for the Cobras against Nar Nar Goon last week.
Todd Beck also played a key defensive role, starting as a seventh man in defence and having the arduous task of filling the hole in front of Gardiner.
Just like Inverloch-Kongwak did against the Dusties last week, the Cobras dominated the early inside-50 count – leading 17-6 in that category at quarter time.
But several misses, which led to a 1.5 to 0.0 first term, would eventually prove costly.
The Dusties turned the screws in the second quarter, with goals to Bailey Beck, Anthony Bruhn and Mason McGarrity giving them a nine-point lead at half time.
Brewster, Will Gibson and the Beck boys – Bailey and Todd – were having an influence around the ground, while the Dusties hit-up style of play kept the ball out of Cobra hands.
No score had been registered to the members end of the Cobradome until half time.
The Dusties quickly rectified that stat early in the third term with Todd Beck and Kyle Staples kicking classy set shots from the clubroom forward pocket.
Gardiner and Brent Urwin answered for the Cobras and the Dusties took an eight-point lead to three-quarter time.
McGarrity kicked an early one for Dusties, but when Gardiner marked and goaled at the 11-minute mark of the final term the game was back on edge – at seven points.
The Cobras pushed hard, but a classic defensive mark from Luke Walker was followed by the sealer from Adrian De Sando to send the Dusties into the penultimate game of the season.
McGarrity and Gardiner were the only multiple goal-kickers on the ground, with two each, with the Dusties small forwards ultimately having the final say.
Brewster said the contested, low-scoring style of play, suited his football club.
“That’s Dusties culture, that’s sort of been bred in us that we are really good at pressure footy, at contested footy, and we like to keep it in tight and make teams work for their goals,” Brewster said.
“We’d love to score more goals, but that’s just the way we go about things.
“The way the backline worked together, the forward line worked together, and the way the midfield cracked in at the contest, that’s what we’re after, and if at the end of the day it’s one goal to five points I’ll take the win any day of the week.”
Brewster said the Dusties were under no illusions of the challenge at hand.
“We did our homework on them and we know they’re a good side, they’ve been a good side for a long, long time, and playing them so often you get to learn what their blokes can and can’t do,” he said
“The first quarter didn’t go our way, we got stuck bombing long and not hitting up our targets like we wanted to.
“Our pressure and heat around the football was really good, it was just not being able to hit our targets and get our running game going.
“In the second, third and fourth we got our running game going, we were able to link through the contest and release a little bit.”
Brewster said winning tight finals had seen a huge trust grow within the group.
“More than anything, more than anything,” Brewster repeated, speaking of the trust he has for his teammates.
“You go out there every week and put your body on the line, and I trust every single one of them that they’ll protect me, I’ll protect them, and we just put trust in each other that we’ll get the job done.
“I have the utmost trust in every single one of them.”