Sport

Early blitz seals Purps deal

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September 25, 2017

Leaping Liam: Nathalia star Liam Evans drags down another mark.

Get him in: Tom Boyd was a somewhat surprise call-up for Nathalia, but held his own.

Takes two to tango: Numurkah's Tim Arnel and Nathalia's Mal Barnes clash mid-air.

Pressure: Nathalia's Nathan Oakes prepares to dish a handball under duress.

A Nathalia ram-raid in the first term was enough for it to claim an amazing three-peat, and its eighth premiership in 13 seasons, at Rumbalara’s Mercury Dve on Saturday.

Purples captain Jarrod Maskell won the toss and had no hesitation in kicking with the breeze in the first term, and his charges dutifully slammed home seven goals to Numurkah’s one in almost 29 minutes of football.

It proved to be crucial in deciding the end result, with the Blues not able to get closer than nine points for the remainder of the contest despite Nathalia managing just one major in each of the remaining terms.

Jason Limbrick’s four goals were enough for him to be awarded the best-on-ground medal, but his battle with young Numurkah defender Braydon Sutton all day was enthralling to say the least.

Limbrick held the early ascendancy with two first-term majors, but Sutton came back strongly after the break to be one of the driving factors behind Numurkah’s comeback.

Tall timber does not get any smaller as the game wears on though, and the Purples’ stalwart bobbed up with his side’s only two goals in the second half to ensure a seventh premiership medal would be added to his overflowing trophy cabinet.

After looking shell-shocked in the opening stages of the match, the Blues slowly worked back into the contest through the determination of ruckman Mitch Price, backman Tom Buzza and runners Nick Fothergill, Michael Herlihy and Tim Arnel.

Price was completely out of petrol tickets by the end of the game, but battled strongly against Nathalia’s rotations of Maskell, Limbrick, Brodie Ross and Tom Boyd, while the other four Blues provided the spark their side needed after a lacklustre start.

Three goals to one in the second term gave Numurkah some hope of claiming an elusive flag, but it was in the third term that the quiet sea of blue began to roar again.

Numurkah had all the running in the stanza, but goals to Josh Evans and Lucas White left the Purples just enough breathing space to be confident their experience would get them over the line.

And get them over the line it did, as the players showed great poise and game-sense to run down the clock superbly.

Bowen Smith and Maskell joined Limbrick as integral cogs to Nathalia’s victory, while Nathan Oakes, Phil Carroll, Matt Davies (two goals) and Ryan Butler also stood out.

Defender Alex Hicks was also awarded the medal for best player in the finals series.

White was Numurkah’s only multiple goal-kicker with two goals, with his side distinctly lacking another tall target in the blustery conditions.

Before the game selection drama surrounded Nathalia, with Boyd and Ricky Barnes brought into the side for Callum Harding-Davies and Joseph Nihill, while veteran Brett Vallender was passed fit to play.

By the end of the day though, no-one was questioning coach Craig Kellow’s decisions as the surrounds echoed with the sound of his troops belting out yet another rendition of Nathalia’s team song.

For fans of the Murray Football League, it must seem like the tape recorder is stuck on repeat.

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