A YEAR after timing their run to premiership perfection, The Rock-Yerong Creek felt the winds of fortune turn against them at Gumly Oval.
Cursed by injuries at a critical time, the defending premiers crashed out of finals with a second consecutive defeat at the home ground of their recent arch-rivals, East Wagga-Kooringal.
Already without key players David Pieper, Mitch Stephenson and Dale Hugo, the Pies couldn’t afford to have Luke Hillier (ankle) and Bryan Ball (calf) also go down.
“We’re the walking wounded but we can’t blame the loss on injuries – it was there to win and then a little momentary lapse in judgement at the back let Mitch Haddrill come in,” TRYC co-coach Andrew Clarke said.
Clarke was one of the Pies’ best, repelling any number of Jets’ raids from half-back and working hard up the ground.
He praised his fellow co-coach, full-forward Andy Carey.
“Big Andy stood up when he had to,” Clarke said.
“When the momentum was going their way, he kicked a few crucial goals and (Mitch Ward’s) work-rate was phenomenal.”
Ward and Jet Ben Prentice were sent off for 15 minutes following a third quarter altercation.
Carey said the Pies’ injuries had come at the wrong time of the year although he admitted form had also tailed off in the last month.
But he’d maintained faith they’d pull through even after Ball and Hillier went off.
“I was thinking about who we could bring in next week,” TRYC co-coach Andy Carey said
“It makes it tough, down to a couple of blokes on the bench and we’re already behind.
“But they’re a good side.”
Clarke also gave credit to the Jets but praised his own players for refusing to surrender without a challenge.
“We put the acid on them at half-time to leave nothing in the tank and they come out and done that. I couldn’t be more happy with them,” Clarke said.
Carey said he’d believed right until the end that they would live to fight another day.
“They stood up and had a crack in the last quarter. That’s just how it goes, I suppose.”