North Ballarat Rebels pulled off a thrilling comeback in yesterday’s qualifying final against the Geelong Falcons, winning by 12 points at IKON Park.
In one of the most exciting TAC Cup finals in recent memory, the Rebels powered home in the last quarter to snare an incredible 16.15 (111) to 15.9 (99) victory.
After trailing for almost the entire contest, the Rebels finally clawed in front late in the fourth term, courtesy of a terrific finish from Connor Byrne.
The Falcons quickly forced multiple opportunities to get back in front, but inaccurate kicking meant that scores were drawn with only minutes to spare.
Step in Rebels’ star Jacob Hopper, who claimed a one-handed mark in the goal-square to reclaim the lead.
It was a sensational moment from the in-and-under midfielder, who has shown a propensity to kick important goals when thrown up forward.
Moments later, Jacob Wheelahan snapped truly to seal the game – and put the Rebels into a preliminary final.
Rebels’ coach David Loader said belief was key to the win.
“It’s been a pretty common theme for this group, just to believe in what we continue to do,” Loader said.
“To finish on top of the ladder, I just kept saying to boys ‘you know, you are a good side when you believe in yourselves.’ I thought they just showed that in spades after half time today.
“I was really, really happy with the boys, that they stuck to what they wanted to achieve.”
North Ballarat’s victory was even more impressive given how dire things looked at quarter time, when the Rebels trailed by 29 points.
The Rebels struggled to match Geelong at stoppages and appeared vulnerable in deep defence against the Falcons’ tall forwards.
Things improved for the Rebels midway through the second term, but it was a slow crawl back into the contest – at the main break, the Rebels were still 25 points behind.
There was noticeable lift from the Rebels in the third term, however, with the likes of Hopper, Joel Cowan and Lloyd Meek hitting their straps.
By the three quarter time, North Ballarat was back to within two goals, but it was the fourth term when the Rebels played their best football.
The Rebels not only appeared far more threatening up forward, but also much more composed down back, particularly defender Billy Lloyd who enjoyed a best-on-ground performance.
Exciting forward Daniel Rioli also had a big say in the result, booting four goals.
The Rebels will have now a weekend off, before fronting up for a preliminary final in two weeks’ time.
North Ballarat Rebels
2.3-15, 4.6-30, 11.11-77, 16.15 (111)
7.2-44, 9.4-58, 14.5-89, 15.9 (99)
Goal Kickers: D. Rioli 4, J. Cowan 3, M. Johnston 2, J. Hopper 2, J. Wheelahan, Y. Eades, C. Wellings, C. Byrne, D. Tucker
Best Players: B. Lloyd, J. Cowan, L. Meek, Y. Eades, J. Hopper, B. Simpson
Goal Kickers: B. Blair 5, C. Curnow 4, H. Kol 3, R. Mathieson 2, W. Sexton
Best Players: C. Curnow, B. Blair, D. Parish, H. Kershaw, Z. Zdybel, T. Doedee