East Coast premiership boss Ned Hyland says lessons learned from last year’s grand final defeat were what got his side through in the tightest division 2 grand final this decade.
Having suffered a 37-point loss to Lilydale in last year’s decider, the Swans looked in danger of becoming back-to-back bridesmaids at several stages during the match – none more so than when they were 10 points down 18 minutes into the final term.
But two crucial passages of play involving star utility Will Stoltenberg saw the Swans take the lead 14 minutes out from the siren, from which time the ball barely left their forward 50.
After outmarking three Eagles in the centre and finding forward Nick Child to bring East Coast within four points, the ex-Prospect coach soccered the ball through a sea of legs in the goalsquare to put his side in the lead.
Stoltenberg’s efforts came after Hyland used his three-quarter time address to urge players to go out and take the game from Evandale.
No-one was prouder than he when they did.
“At certain stages of the game we found ourselves in similar positions (to last year) - behind on the scoreboard, behind in momentum at times and what we learned was the difference today,” Hyland said.
“We had the answers, we were able to kick goals against the wind which ultimately was a difference in the scoreboard, and the guys we needed to fire or nullify did their jobs.”
The newly signed-on coach admitted he was starting to get itchy when his side was still in arrears midway through the last term.
“I was very nervous,” Hyland said.
“But we backed our boys in to trust each to get the job done - I knew the boys wouldn’t let me down and they knew they wouldn’t let each other down.
“Last quarter with the wind advantage we backed ourselves in to be able to kick a score and overrun them.”
Some 2092 fans came through the gate on what was an ideal day for football, and were largely kept guessing as the two sides traded the lead multiple times throughout the day.
The Swans’ 7.14 (56) was by far their lowest winning score of the season, but statistics meant nothing to those who had travelled up from the Coast to support their side.
Hyland said sharing the win with supporters and family was among the most satisfying feelings for his club.
“There aren’t words to describe the feeling after the game when you look around and there were hundreds of people around us and they’re all from the Coast.
“A lot of people are directly personally involved, so it’s very emotional for everyone involved and it’s great to see the reward shared by all.
“It’s ultimate success so matter what happens now we never lose that, it lasts forever.”
‘I’m proud of my boys’: Storay
The sting of a six-point loss will burn over the summer, but Evandale coach James Storay wasn’t left wondering if his team could have done more.
The Eagles showed plenty of grit in what was a gruelling grand final, giving their all in a last-term arm wrestle as they fought to hold a one-goal lead kicking against the wind.
They looked every chance of doing just that when they held a 10-point buffer at the 18-minute mark, but the Swans finally found a way through.
“It’s a tough way to finish what was a good season,” Storay said after the game.
“I’m really proud of my team’s effort - to fight the way we did, especially in that last quarter going against the wind, I couldn’t be any more proud.
“The boys fought right to the end, as a coach you ask for that, and I got it.
“It hurts but we’ve just got to be able to come back bigger and better next year.”
In his post-match address, Storay called on his players to stick tight in a tough time and reload for next season.