AFTER contesting six losing grand finals since 2006, Diggers Rest thought it had won a breakthrough premiership.
Tom Gleeson had just taken a mark on the half forward flank about 55m from goal when the final siren sounded on the fourth quarter at Romsey Park.
Jason Williams celebrates his matchwinning goal for Diggers Rest. Picture: Josie Hayden
He threw the ball in the air as teammates flocked to celebrate and supporters began to flood the ground.
The thing was the Burras had not beaten Riddell — yet.
A scoreboard blunder — fixed after Diggers Rest forward Michael Kilty had kicked the final goal to seemingly put his side one point in front — meant a drama-filled Riddell District Football League grand final was going to extra time for the first time in the league’s history.
What followed was two five-minute halves of some of the most intense, high-pressure football which proved the ultimate end to the season’s showpiece fixture.
Riddell drew first blood, Cameron Casson kicking the only goal of the first period as the Bombers changed ends with a seven-point advantage.
But a determined Diggers Rest hung tough, Brent Tuckey snapping a goal over his shoulder at the top of the square one minute into the second period and Jason Williams — who had been well held all day — following up with a clutch goal on the run from 30m a few minutes later which proved the matchwinner in a 12.14 (86) to 12.8 (80) triumph.
Diggers Rest star Taylor Hine tries to escape the clutches of two Riddell opponents. Picture: Josie Hayden
“It’s a special feeling, very special feeling,” Williams said after the game.
“I just remember getting the ball, I remember looking down at the ball, and I just knew I hit it perfectly. I just knew it was going through. As soon as it hit my foot, there was just no better feeling.
“Just to look at everyone get up, it’s amazing. I can’t tell you how special this is to me.”
While Williams kicked the winner, Kilty’s final three minutes of the fourth quarter was what kept Diggers Rest alive.
Sent off with a yellow card for his involvement in a scuffle with two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Kilty — who was unable to be replaced — left his team with just 17 men on the field for 15 minutes of playing time.
Already in some trouble against a Bombers outfit which had all the momentum, Kilty’s indiscretion was a costly mistake.
But after Diggers Rest trailed by 12 points after the clock had ticked into time-on, Kilty stood up to kick two goals in the space of a minute and level the scores with just seconds remaining.
Diggers Rest celebrates its premiership win. Picture: Josie Hayden
“I thought I owed the team, getting sent off,” Kilty said.
“It was good to repay them. Unfortunately it went into extra time but we ended up getting the points so it’s good.”
While the finishing of Kilty and Williams was key, it was Taylor Hine who collected the Doug McIntyre Medal for best afield.
In his first year at the club, the honour came less than two weeks after the former Gold Coast and North Melbourne midfielder finished second in the league’s best and fairest count.
“He’s just a terrific person,” Diggers Rest coach Shaun Sims said of Hine.
“He trains every night, brings a level of professionalism. He hasn’t put a foot wrong since he walked in the door.”
Diggers Rest's Brandon Kilty in action. Picture: Josie Hayden
Fellow 2016 recruit Cale Morton — a former Melbourne and West Coast midfielder — also impressed while Cameron McCabe was lively up forward and skipper Stuart Clarke led from the front as usual.
Sims used the word “perseverance” post-game.
Not only had the club stuck together after three heartbreaking grand final defeats in as many years but the 22 players on the field on Sunday persevered until the final siren of both the fourth quarter and extra time.
“Losing grand finals is losing grand finals. You’ll never forget them,” Sims said.
“But I think this definitely helps.”