By Beth Newman
For the second week in a row, Labrador were under siege.
For the second week in a row, scores were level in the shadows of full time.
And for the second week in a row, Todd Featherstone booted his side into next week.
This time it took him three juggles of the footy to finally snap around his body In the square, but it didn’t matter to the Tigers as the final siren rang out and they found themselves through to a grand final, 12.13 (85) – 11.13 (79).
The opportunity was the result of a Nathan Carr miskick in the Lions’ 50, a centring kick that would have been better off as a shot, but it could just as easily been the Tigers rueing a late clanger, after one of their most composed players, Kurt Niklaus, coughed up a kick deep in the Lions’ 50.
For three quarters Palm Beach had control, but the Tigers clawed their way back into the contest.
After trailing by as much as 34 points late in the game, Labrador first took the lead, the 15th minute of the fourth quarter, when Matt Daniel kicked his only major of the afternoon.
A spectacular bouncing goal for Jye warren ignited a second-half comeback for the Tigers, who kicked six of the next eight goals, and gaining crucial momentum,
Tigers coach, Steve Daniel, who continues his perfect record of making a grand final at every club he’s coached, said his side’s character mixed with a dose of favourable footy gods was the difference.
“We pride ourselves on never giving up,” he said.
“We just hung in there and really gutsed it out.
“You need a little bit of luck in finals matches as well, so that just went our way.”
Warren’s fruitful stint at full-forward was out of step with where he has played this season, but Daniel said it certainly wasn’t a random move.
“He’s done that in the Goulburn Valley Football League, so we had that up our sleeve,” he said.
Labrador youngster, Zac Brain, continued his immense improvement in 2014 ,and nearly snatched mark of the year in the Labrador goal square in the third term.
It was a gut wrenching end for the Lions, who will also farewell coach, Daryn Cresswell, who joins the Wodonga Raiders in 2015.
A visibly disappointed Cresswell said it was a tough way to go out, more for the players than himself
“It rips your heart out,” he said.
“They’ve put in a lot of hard work over the pre-season and no one likes coming second or third best, so to end like that was bitterly disappointing.
“You’d prefer to lose by four or five goals than the way we lost and we had opportunities to win as well.”
While the Tigers will head into next week’s grand final against the undefeated Morningside as the rank outsiders, that status does not worry Daniel.
“We have no pressure at all,” he said.
“Everything is on Morningside. If they were to lose next week, it would be the biggest debacle going round.”