Crows end 39 – Year Premiership Drought
Matt Malone – Daily Advertiser
Leeton-Whitton ended the competition’s longest premiership drought with a fighting six-point win over Collingullie-Glenfield Park on Saturday. The Crows gained redemption for last year’s heartbreaking four-point grand final loss and ended the club’s 39-year drought in the process.
Leeton-Whitton opened up an 18-point lead midway through the final quarter and then held off a late Demons charge to win, 10.15 (75) to 10.9 (69) at Narrandera Sportsground. With a howling wind blowing to one end, a goal after the half-time siren put Collingullie-GP five points clear at the main break.
The Crows kicked four goals to two in the third quarter to establish a 12-point lead at the final change. The margin was quickly reduced to six when Nick Perryman goalled in the third minute of the last quarter to put the heat right on the Crows.
With history waiting, Leeton-Whitton lifted. They got a quick reply through Toby Conroy then peppered the goals for the next 15 minutes. The Crows kicked six consecutive behinds, plus a shot out on the full, to stretch the margin to 18 as the clock reached the 20 minute mark.
Perryman then kicked his second to reduce the margin to 12, and Matt Beckmans then goalled at the 24 minute mark to put the Demons within a kick. With only about 20 seconds remaining, Jayden Klemke eventually got the clearance and urged the ball inside 50 only for Ben Curley to fly spectacularly and mark as the siren sounded to seal a famous victory.
Leeton-Whitton coach Jade Hodge, who suffered a shoulder injury early in the final term, said it was a win the Leeton community had been waiting for. “It’s outstanding. I think you can see the look on the supporters’ faces,” Hodge said.
“It’s been a long time coming and I think nearly every one of them was in tears. That’s how much it means to this town. “Let’s hope we’ve repaid the faith they have shown in us over a lot of years.”
Hodge was proud of the way his team lifted when it mattered. “It’s unbelievable. Obviously it was a tough game, we knew Collingullie weren’t going to go away, they’ve been the form side all year, we just relied on our relentless pressure around the contest and eventually we were able to grind them down and finish on top, just,” Hodge said.
“I thought both quarters into the breeze, we were really good. Mentally, I think, we knew we had to run and we had to carry and we didn’t blaze away. That wind can sometimes be a mind factor, mentally, and the boys worked their butts off and I couldn’t be happier.”
The Crows had winners all over the ground.
Bryce O’Garey was awarded the Ron Hutchins Medal for best-on-ground. He was well supported by Toby Conroy, while Jamieson Booth worked hard to limit the influence of Jayden Klemke. Brad Boots and Daniel Muir, who finished with 2.5, were strong up forward, while Ben Curley and Jayden Lehman were brilliant in defence. Hodge ensured his name is etched forever into Leeton-Whitton folklore, as the man who delivered the merged club their first senior premiership.
After being labelled ‘slow’ last year despite only falling four points short of a premiership, Hodge made changes and moulded the Crows’ into a quicker, slicker, premiership outfit. But he quickly deflected the fame to the group. “I’m not one for the individual stuff,” he said.
“We’ve got a massive team behind us. Jamie Broadbent, Matty Sharman being my bench coaches all year, Daniel Muir has come over and implemented a lot of stuff he brought with him. “It’s a collective group and without the boys work rate and effort we wouldn’t have got there at the end of the day.”
Hodge said the Crows’ pressure was what got them over the line. “Pressure, want and will to bring ourselves into the game,” he said. “There’s a couple of times there we could have potentially let them run, let them go, but to the boys’ credit we worked really hard and knew that if we shut them down, we knew that we could score, it was just a matter of not letting them score quickly and shutting down their run was really important for us.”