THE Southern Mallee Giants are through to the Wimmera Football League senior grand final in their first season in the league.
The Giants managed to overcome a sluggish first quarter to beat the Demons 62-50.
The Demons had the game on their terms early, but struggled to hit the scoreboard from set shots.
John Wood and Jordyn Burke missed in succession before Horsham had another chance through Ben Hobbs. But that opportunity too went begging.
Finally, as time ticked past the half-way mark of the quarter, the Demons were able to break through to hit the scoreboard.
The Giants then looked like they might get their first goal on the board as they pressed into the forward half, but a classic tackle from Demon Brad Hartigan resulted in a holding the ball call.
The minor premiers again streamed forward, but yet another set shot opportunity went begging.
The Giants also had their opportunities. They missed three chances to goal late in the quarter, and the Demons made them pay. They slotted another two majors to go into quarter-time up 18-1.
Southern Mallee soon started making up for their slow start in the second quarter, with Josh Webster slotting one through to big sticks to register their first of the afternoon.
Another two followed to get the match back on even terms, before the Demons responded with a major to put the margin back out to five points.
The Giants got one back however, and went into the main break up by a point. Suddenly the game had turned into the close contest many expected.
Southern Mallee struck first in the second half through Jackson Fisher, before another goal had them ahead by 15 points.
Then when the ball fell into Fisher's hands right near the goal line, it looked like another score was on the cards. But he couldn’t stick the mark and the ball was rushed through for a behind.
A goal to the Demons and then another through some handy crumbing work from Josh Mibus sliced the margin back to five.
But again the Giants had an answer, scoring another major to go into three-quarter-time up 49-37.
The fourth quarter started as a stalemate, with neither team able to hit the scoreboard for at least the first seven minutes.
Relentless pressure around the ball made it hard for anyone to get a clean run into their attack.
Finally the Giants broke through when the Giants got the ball into their forward line, and Clint Burdett split the sticks from about 30 metres out.
The Demons' reply was swift, with two consecutive goals getting them back within a kick of the lead.
However the Giants were able to keep them at bay, with a late goal sealing a 12-point win.
Giants coach Coleman Schache said the Giants did not expect they could take a direct path to the grand final when they started their first Wimmera league season five months ago.
“We knew it was going to be a tough league coming into it, and found it was really tough right through the season,” he said.
“But the boys just kept adapting and working harder at our strengths, and it's a bit of reward paying off.
“But we still know we have a job ahead.”
Schache – in the side after missing the past few games – said the Giants were a little lucky with the Demons’ kicking inaccuracy in the first quarter.
“To our boys' credit we hung in there, kept competing, and got a bit of movement in the second half,” he said.
Schache praised the work of Clint Burdett, Tyler Lehmann and Reece McNally.
Demons coach Deek Roberts said his side made things difficult for themselves with some missed opportunities in the first half.
“We definitely cursed ourselves early with a few shots on goal,” he said.
“If you kick them it makes a difference. We're probably a little disappointed with that.
“In the full scheme of things though, they played better on the day.
“But we've earned a second chance so we'll use it.”