A gold nugget has been added to Cora Lynn’s magnificent war-chest of finals victories after the Cobras knocked Nar Nar Goon out of this year’s premiership race with a typically brave 17-point victory in Sunday’s elimination final at Garfield.
The expected Sunday-shootout between West Gippsland’s two-leading goalkickers – Cora Lynn’s Nathan Gardiner and Nar Nar Goon’s Dermott Yawney – developed into a stunning one-man show with Gardiner kicking eight goals to lead the Cobras to a memorable 11.6.72 to 7.13.55 victory.
Yawney was held goalless, with Cobras co-captain Tim Payne doing a magnificent blanketing job in his 42nd senior final with the club.
Cora Lynn jumped the Goon early, with Cory Machaya snapping the game’s first, inside 60 seconds, before Gardiner kicked two in three minutes to give the Cobras a three-goal lead.
Yawney then took a spectacular grab, rising high above a pack at centre half-forward, and the expected shootout looked on.
Cooper Pursell kicked the Goon’s only goal for the quarter, with the Cobras taking an eight-point lead to the first break.
Both teams kicked 2.2 in the second term, with Gardiner converting two free kicks, while Pursell and Anthony Young slotted a goal apiece for the Goon.
Machaya once again fired an early shot to start the third quarter, but when Trent Armour kicked a blinder from outside 50 – and Young converted another from long range – the Goon had closed to a solitary point and appeared to have all the momentum.
Heath Briggs showed a calm nerve, kicking truly from a set shot, to give the Cobras a five-point lead at the final change.
Cora Lynn had a plethora of football at the start of the final term, but wasted opportunities to bury the Goon properly.
The Goon then went forward, against the run of play, with Brendan Hermann kicking a ripper from the boundary to close the gap to two points after six minutes of play.
Gardiner then kicked his sixth and seventh, inside a minute, and the Cobras looked home with a 14-point lead.
Kyle O’Sullivan then answered, but when Gardiner kicked the last two goals of the match – his third and fourth for the quarter – the Cobras were home-and hosed and celebrating a famous victory.
Cora Lynn coach Shaun Sparks was lost for words after the match, praising his group for a typical Cora Lynn finals performance, built on spirit and unwavering belief.
“Very, very proud, just outstanding, with everything we’ve gone through this season, to show that fight today, I just can’t speak highly enough about the boy’s efforts,” Sparks said from outside a buzzing changerooms.
“We just get up for big games, that’s the culture of the group and something Cora Lynn has prided itself on over the years.
“Obviously to jump them in the first quarter was huge for us, and we have jumped a lot of teams in our wins this season.
“As for the belief, I can’t explain it. Before my time David Main was a big driver of that belief card, and the results just speak for themselves.
“It’s just belief, we play the Cobras-style in finals and that’s usually good enough to at least keep us in the game.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the way the boys carried that spirit through today.”
Gardiner was the outstanding footballer on the park, with eight goals just reward for his efforts, while ruckman Billy Thomas, and speed-machine Jaxon Briggs, were both at their punishing best.
The Goon leaves in disappointing circumstances, having finished fourth on the ladder and looking set for a lengthy finals campaign.
Armour and Hermann tried their best to lift their club across the line, while Sam Blackwood was creative and damaging in the final term when the Goon needed it most.
Luke Young has now coached his final game at the Goon, after being let go by the club for 2023 with six rounds and finals remaining in the season.
Cora Lynn will now take on Warragul Industrials in next Sunday’s cut-throat first semi-final at Cora Lynn, while Tooradin-Dalmore and Phillip Island will look to be first qualifiers for the 2022 grand final when they lock horns in Saturday’s second semi-final at Inverloch.
NAR NAR GOON 1.5 3.7 5.10 7.13(55)
CORA LYNN 3.1 5.3 7.3 11.6(72)
Nar Nar Goon Goals: Cooper Pursell 2, Anthony Young 2, Brendan Hermann, Tex Marsham, Kyle O’Sullivan. Best: Trent Armour, Sam Blackwood, Luke Bettio, Brendan Hermann, Anthony Young, Cooper Pursell.
Cora Lynn Goals: Nathan Gardiner 8, Cory Machaya 2, Heath Briggs. Best: Nathan Gardiner, William Thomas, Cory Machaya, Tristan Fernandez-Phillips, Luke Ryan, Jaxon Briggs.