Ararat 77 d Stawell 67
ARARAT will play finals football for the first time since 2010 after beating arch-rival Stawell by 10 points at Central Park, Stawell, on Saturday.
The Rats had to win – and hope Minyip-Murtoa beat Dimboola – to play finals.
Both pieces of the puzzle fell into place on the final day of the home and away season.
But the Rats were made to work hard for fifth place by a determined Warriors outfit.
The hosts led by 20 points at quarter-time – a lead that was cut to one goal at half-time.
A five-goal-to-three third term gave the Rats an eight-point advantage at the final change.
Both sides could only muster one goal each in the final stanza, with the score standing at 11.11 (77) to 10.7 (67).
Rats coach David Hosking said his side was rapt to have earnt an elimination final berth against the Burras.
“We are pumped to make the finals and we’re probably a bit relieved too,” he said.
“To not make finals after the start to our season would have been massively disappointing.
“Everyone at the club’s pretty excited – it’s been a lean few years.”
After winning its first four games, Ararat won only two of its next 10 before wins against Nhill and Stawell in the final two rounds sealed the club’s fate.
Hosking said his side stood up to the Warriors’ challenge.
“We knew we had a battle keeping our end of the bargain up in beating Stawell,” he said.
“I thought Stawell defended really well – that meant that goal-scoring was difficult.
“We had to win or there was no next week and that’s something we can take out of the game.”
Hosking said it was a solid team performance.
Tyler Cronin, three goals, was one of four multiple goal-kickers for the Rats, while leaders Alan Batchelor, Jack Ganley and Aaron Searle were among the players to lead the way.
However, ruckman Dan Vearing is likely to miss the club’s finals campaign after suffering a knee injury.
Stawell coach Brad Cassidy said he was pleased with his side’s effort to finish the season.
“We certainly gave ourselves a chance and put ourselves into a position to win, which was pleasing,” he said.
“But we were certainly disappointed not to get the win.
“I couldn’t question the boys’ effort and intent – that’s all you can ask for.”
Cassidy said Todd Matthews played a strong game at full-back, while skipper Tom Eckel again led the way.
He said the Warriors’ competitive finish to the season was a sign of where the club was headed.