Winners . . . the Orara Valley Axemen.
Winners . . . the Orara Valley Axemen. The Coffs Coast Advocate

Axemen take out grand final

Axemen coach Darryl Fisher was an obviously relieved man during the post-match celebrations.

Always a practical man who's rarely prone to emotional outbursts or fanciful thoughts, Fisher's only explanation for the win was that it must've been fate.

“Sometimes you can control whatever you want but sometimes things are meant to be or they're not,” he said.

“Last year it obviously wasn't but this year I think it was.

“There's not much more I can put it down to as it was a pretty even contest and a hell of a battle.”

A battle is exactly what transpired as this encounter was precisely what a grand final should be - tense and extremely physical, featuring flashes of brilliance and non-stop drama from go to whoa.

From the moment Woolgoolga's favourite son Lee Harvey led his men on to the field in front of a large and predominantly Seahorses crowd, the deafening roar was a pre-cursor to a classic.

But if Woopi supporters were all behind Harvey, it can almost be guaranteed that Axemen fans went to bed last night thankful that fullback Ryan Walker wears a green and gold jersey.

Walker was simply outstanding with his scything runs and his kicking game often allowed the Axemen to control the territorial battle.

For his efforts, Walker was awarded the John Mackay Medal for best player on the field but one has to wonder if Ben McCarthy would've received the honour had the result been reversed.

In the lead-up to the clash there were concerns about the gulf in grand final experience between the two sides and in the opening 40 minutes, Woolgoolga's lack of big time play did rear it's ugly head.

“In the first half we had the jitters and we panicked a lot,” lamented Woolgoolga coach Darren Leaney.

“I said to them at half time 'you've got to stop panicking' as we dropped our bundle a bit in the first half as we didn't stick to our basic game plan.

“When we did stick to it we got a few good results out of it and in the second half we got into a bit of a groove which was good.”

The second half was as good a brand of football as you will ever see. Bruising defence matched only by two teams who both had completion rates above 80 per cent in the lead-up to the full-time bell.

With missed opportunities aplenty to take the match and the trophy, supporters were biting their fingernails but Fisher said that sometimes it's luck that plays the biggest role in these matches.

“At times there were a couple of things where I thought 'we might regret that' but Woolgoolga would've been the same,” he said.

“Luckily it turned out our way but it was two awesome teams who played an awesome game."\

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