VICTORIOUS: North Mackay kept Mackay City scoreless after half time to prevail by 42 points.
VICTORIOUS: North Mackay kept Mackay City scoreless after half time to prevail by 42 points. Contributed

Coach's half-time rev-up inspires team to premiership

AT HALF TIME of Saturday's Reserve Grade grand final, Brendan Riddle let himself get angry for the first time all season.

On the biggest stage of the year, after a near-flawless campaign, the Saints looked vulnerable.

Up by just nine points against fierce rivals Mackay City Hawks and readying to kick into a strong wind in the third quarter, Riddle knew the challenge had been thrown down at the feet of his playing group.

"It's probably the first time I've gotten angry,” the coach said.

"I gave the boys a bit of a spray and I'm glad I did, because they came out all guns blazing.”

The Saints went on to keep the Hawks scoreless after the main break and piled on five goals of their own en route to a 42-point grand final victory.

In hindsight, he need not have been so nervous.

The Saints have made it a habit of dominating third quarters this season.

"I had the captain Nick Fenton text me a couple of Friday nights ago before the prelim,” Riddle said.

"He said, 'mate, we've done the maths, and we average 3.6 goals a third quarter throughout the whole year - everyone else averages just 0.6 points (against us) . . . so we've got them covered if it comes down to it.

"It paid off again.”

Skipper Fenton said it was an honour to captain his team to a premiership against bitter rivals Hawks.

"We knew Hawks would come out hard, hit hard, but cooler heads prevailed and we got over the line,” he said.

"To get the double (A-Grade and Reserve Grade) is unbelievable. There's no better feeling than taking that cup home.”

In his premiership trophy acceptance speech, Riddle touched upon the Saints' early-season struggles to even field a side.

They lost their opening-round fixture to the Eastern Swans.

But that seemed but a distant memory as he stood at the podium with a medallion around his neck.

Riddle said the club's 50th anniversary played a large part in enticing players to return for another season.

"Fifty years was probably what pulled us over the line. A few of the older blokes got keen, pulled the boots on and we didn't know how to lose after that,” he said.

"It scared me, actually.”

Riddle ended by paying tribute to Saints stalwart Chris Dunbar.

"We were playing for our really good mate Chris Dunbar who is battling cancer in hospital at the moment,” Riddle said.

"He was really disappointed he couldn't make it, but we know he was sitting there in his hospital bed watching it livestreamed - thanks to AFL Mackay for that.

"He'd be really proud of us, I think. We did it for him.”

AFL Mackay Reserve Grade Grand Final

North Mackay Saints 9.7-61 def. Mackay City Hawks 3.1-19 at Harrup Park

Best on Ground: Cameron Wharton (North Mackay)



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