Roar emotion on show
IT had been a long wait for Grafton to finally win a premiership, but the outpouring from players and supporters alike after the final siren sounded on Saturday proved the wait had been worth it.
In typical Grafton fashion, the players won the grand final the hard way.
When Port Macquarie full forward, and the competition’s leading goal-kicker, Matt Newton, dragged in a spectacular one-handed mark in the goal square to goal in the 17th minute, the Magpies had five majors on the board and led by 22 points.
The experienced Magpies, grand final regulars in the past 10 years, were out-muscling the pre-match favourites and an upset result looked on the cards.
Undaunted by the slow start, Newton’s goal simply served as the moment that the Tigers clicked into gear.
The football wasn’t pretty.
In fact, it was one of the most physical clashes seen for a while, but when the ball was moved into space it was the leg speed of the Tigers that so often proved the difference.
After Newton’s spectacular effort, the Tigers kicked eight of the next nine goals to lead by 24 points five minutes into the final term.
Grafton captain Daniel Zacek was instrumental, kicking four goals, and what he couldn’t mark as he roamed around the forward line he at least created a loose ball for the Tigers’ small men to run on to.
Evan Duryea provided plenty of drive out of the middle, particularly in the second half, when the contest was up for grabs.
Port Macquarie led by four points at the main break but couldn’t kick a goal in the third term, when it had the advantage of a slight breeze at its back.
Grafton peppered the goals in the third stanza but like its rival was unable to kick straight and led by just two goals at the final break.
The Tigers were looking fresher and when they booted two quick goals soon after the start of the final term, Grafton looked destined for premiership glory.
But it was not simple, with the Tigers forced to defend grimly for the next 15 minutes as Port Macquarie threw everything it had at Grafton in one last bid for victory.
Goals to Newton and Clayton Miechel made the contest interesting but it wasn’t enough.
History was made at the stadium on a day that Grafton supporters had waited 30 long years to happen.