Border Mail Grand Final – Review

After losing in the opening week of the finals last year, the Tigers captured their second flag in three seasons under coach Matt Rava.

The five goal to one opening term blitz proved telling as only a further 11 goals were scored for the match in the blustery conditions.

Rava was overjoyed to end his fourth and final season at the helm on the ultimate high.

“This is such an amazing club that I have been fortunate enough to coach for four years,” Rava said.

“Most people wrote us off after our second semi-final loss but I never lost faith in the group.

“We were able to produce our trademark run and carry and really spread the footy today.

“I thought our pressure was outstanding early and every team is susceptible to pressure and then it’s just a matter of when they crack.

“We kicked 7.1 in that first half and there is no pressure like scoreboard pressure and I’m super proud of our forwards and how they converted.”

Kodie O’Malley was lively early for the Tigers with three goals in the opening term which proved crucial as they raced to a 22 point lead at the first break.

The athletic Michael Driscoll was proving competitive at the centre bounces and stoppages against Azzi medallist Matt Seiter.

The Tigers also made sure Saints ace Nico Sedgwick earned every one of his 25 plus possessions with heavy body contact every time he went near the ball.

Osborne’s midfield was able to seize control mainly through the efforts of Marty Bahr, Rava and Izaac McDonnell who was able to rack-up plenty of touches despite tagging Sedgwick.

Bahr in particular was outstanding in the clinches and narrowly shaded O’Malley for best on ground honours.

After a slow start the Saints were able to stop the bleeding in the second term mainly through the efforts of Darcy I’Anson, Mitchell Reilly and Ron Boulton.

Both sides kicked two goals for the term with the Tigers leading by 21 points at the main break.

The closest the Saints came to pegging back the deficit was after Boulton goalled early in the last term to slash the margin to 19 points.

But the Tigers had all the answers as they booted the final three goals of the match.

Stevens led the Saints to the premiership last season in his second year at the helm after a glittering O&M career.

He has committed to a fourth year in charge next season.

“You have to be in it to win it,” Stevens said.

“A lot of people say they’d rather not make the grand final, then finish runner-up.

“They’re kidding themselves.

“We gained a lot of experience which can only be beneficial.

“Losing grand finals can really galvanise a group and provide a lot of drive and motivation for future success.”

Stevens paid tribute to Osborne.

“We were totally outclassed by a very well drilled, hard running, hard working and skillful side,” he said.

“They thoroughly deserve the spoils of victory.”

The Tiger tall suffered a lacerated kidney in the second last round after falling heavily in a contest.

“I hit the ground and didn’t realise but I did some kidney damage,” Alexander said.

“I just thought I had a sore back after I done it.

“I went to the hospital and they did a few scans and discovered I had a lacerated kidney.

“I spent two days and a night in hospital recovering.”

Alexander missed the second semi-final clash against Brock-Burrum but returned for last week’s preliminary final.

“They told me not to play for six weeks,” he said.

“So I shouldn’t really be playing for another two weeks.

“But there was no way I was going to miss the biggest match of the season.”

Alexander played a starring role in the Tigers’ 2017 flag triumph over Jindera.

But the then 19-year-old was badly injured after the vehicle he was driving flipped early on the Sunday morning of the club’s premiership celebrations.

He was flown to Canberra hospital and was lucky to escape serious injury.

Although the athletic tall injured his knee in the accident and required a knee reconstruction.

Alexander missed all of last season.

“My knee has fully recovered but I had to put a helluva lot of work into it,” he said.

“I was angry with myself and what happened and it was a real driving force for me to get back and win another flag.

“It’s just unreal to be back at Walbundrie for the biggest match of the season.”

Alexander played his role at centre half-forward with full forward Kodie O’Malley damaging early with three goals in the opening term.

“Kodie is a huge asset for us, he is a big target and has got a huge leap on him,” Alexander said.

“He loves kicking a goal and he set us alight in that first term with three snags.

“We knew Brock-Burrum are a good side and we would have to produce our best footy to beat them.

“We able to execute and get the chocolates.”

Gleeson, 39, was one of the side’s best players at full-back as he capped off a strong finals campaign by negating John Spencer and Adam I’Anson.

The premiership gave Gleeson bragging rights over long-time teammate Darren Howard who played in nine premierships for the club.

It joined his previous successes in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2017.

“It’s unreal,” Gleeson said.

“I’ve been so lucky in the my career and this one is right up there.

“It’s a young side and I’m so old I suppose.”

Gleeson has no intentions of retiring despite increasing commitments on the farm and says he’s likely to play reserves next season.

He believes Tiger captain Marty Bahr was a deserved winner of the Des Kennedy Medal.

“We had a lot of good players but I thought he was fantastic,” Gleeson said.

“The boys put Brock-Burrum under a lot of pressure today.”

Rava, 35, has coached the Tigers for the past four seasons, winning premierships in 2017 and again on the weekend.

Saturday’s triumph was his seventh flag after previously winning five grand finals with Riverina powerhouse Ganmain-Grong-Grong-Matong.

Rava produced another classy display on Saturday and was firmly in the mix to win the medal for best on ground honours.

“The body is feeling OK, but it was always the plan that the club start looking for another coach for next season,” Rava said.

“I have absolutely loved coaching such a proud club as Osborne and it’s such a fantastic club to be at.

“We’ll wait and see what happens but hopefully I’ll be pulling on the Osborne jumper on again next season.

“Once you arrive at Osborne, it’s very hard to leave.

“The culture is amazing

“The support shown from all the local farmers, former players and volunteers is unbelievable.”

Bahr, who edged out Matt Rava and Kodie O’Malley for best afield honours, followed the lead of Gavin Graetz, Craig Smith, Adam Schneider, Owen Gooden, Anthony Armstrong, Djali Bloomfield, Rory Muggivan and Jamie Parr.

“It’s a fantastic effort by Osborne to have four sides playing today,” Bahr, who has played in five Osborne flags, said.

“It’s pretty sweet.

“It’s a team sport and a number of boys could have got this (medal).

“It was a real team effort.

“I’m stoked.”

While Bahr, Rava and Hayden Gleeson fit into the veteran category, Osborne’s young brigade look set to terrorise the competition for years to come.

“‘Steno’ (Sam Stening) is 16 and I think we had an average age of 23,” he said.

“I think it would be youngest one I’ve played in.”

SAM Livingstone is never going to be one of those people who get lost going to Osborne.

While many have come unstuck over the years trying to locate ‘The Club Without A Town’, Livingstone has the trek firmly implanted in his head.

Livingstone spent six hours in the car each week travelling from his home town of Kiewa to Osborne for training and matches.

“The travel is what it is but when you have the club we do it makes it all worthwhile,” the Tiger defender said.

“From Kiewa to Osborne is 90 minutes so it’s a three-hour round trip.

“I’ve had good mates come out and have a beer, my parents came out when they could and a couple of podcasts here and there came in handy.”

Livingstone only signed with Osborne in December after making the surprise decision to step down as coach of Tallangatta.

He was sounded out by five Hume league clubs.

“If I had a crystal ball it would have been great,” he said.

“I liked the culture, I loved the people and it’s paid dividends for me.”

The former Murray Bushranger said Osborne’s semi-final loss to Brock-Burrum may have been a blessing in disguise.

“To lose in the semi and get a really big come from behind win against Culcairn gave us belief,” he said.

“‘Sedgie’ is made to earn his kicks every week,” Stevens said.

“He has to work hard.

“He is an amazing player because he earns his 25 or 30 touches every week with somebody sitting in his pocket (tagging).

“It takes a lot of mental power to deal with a tagger every week.

“Once again he was one of our leaders and laid five tackles in the third quarter when we were trying to mount a fightback.”

Stevens said Brock-Burrum were in good shape to rebound from the loss next season.

“We have re-signed 90 per cent of our list over the past month,” he said.

“We will have a look at things over the next month and then target a handful of recruits to fill spots we need to bolster.”