By sports editor Russell Bennett
The last time Kooweerup played a wet weather final, the side was whitewashed by Phillip Island in last season’s grand final in astonishing scenes at Garfield.
But when the wintry conditions hit Cora Lynn on Sunday afternoon, the Demons stood strong on the big stage – refusing to turn to water when it was their turn to go.
And it was a combination of their experienced stars and rising young guns who led the way.
Former Cora Lynn premiership captain Ben Collins was coaching potentially his last game at the helm of the Demons if their elimination final clash against Inverloch Kongwak didn’t go their way.
The clash could potentially have marked the last in Demons colours for some of their more experienced players, too.
But this was a group that had no intention of bowing out of the finals race at the first hurdle, and boy did these Demons play like it.
The day started out under bright sunshine but with a blustery breeze.
The crowd flocked from near and far to get a glimpse of the cut-throat finals action, with the overflow carpark at Cora Lynn even needing to be utilised to accommodate all the onlookers.
It loomed as a perfect day for a showpiece final, but as the weather turned, it proved to be anything but for the wayward Sea Eagles – who were knocked out at the elimination final stage for the second straight year, this time by 29 points, 11.10 (76) to 5.17 (47).
Inverloch Kongwak went into the clash without the likes of Brendan Iezzi, Josh Clottu and of course Andy Soumilas but still seemed to have the advantage in a number of key areas across the ground.
And with the aid of the breeze early they led by 10 points at quarter-time, 3.4 (22) to 2.0 (12).
Their back six stood strong in the opening stanza with a number of Kooweerup’s inside 50s not able to be converted into scoreboard pressure.
But the Demons took plenty of confidence into the contest. They’d won their only other clash of the season – by three points in Round 8 at Inverloch – and weren’t perturbed by the Sea Eagles’ red-hot form leading into Sunday’s game, despite Tom McQualter’s side having won four on the trot, including victories over both Cora Lynn and Tooradin-Dalmore.
In the opening 15 minutes of the second term, the Demons had kicked three unanswered goals to lead by seven points.
Their trademark defensive pressure was obvious, and the game seemed to be played on their terms.
While there were a number of costly turnovers from both sides, Inverloch Kongwak’s seemed more pronounced – particularly given their struggles in front of the big sticks.
The Demons took a narrow four-point advantage into the half, 5.3 (33) to 3.11 (29), and Collins knew his side was on. It was only the little things they had to sharpen up. An undersized back six, featuring the likes of Brad Harding and Troy Dolan, had featured strongly in the first half – restricting the taller firepower of the Sea Eagles.
But it was the Demons’ engine room that could be thanked largely for that.
The experienced trio of Luke Walker, Dave Collins, and Joel Gibson was simply outstanding, with former skipper Walker – in particular – turning in a vintage performance.
But the group’s young guns weren’t to be outdone. The strong-bodied Mitch Cammarano was inspirational with his attack on the Sherrin, while Liam Hetherington’s disciplined role, and Matt Voss’ polish as they rain arrived were no less impactful.
A brilliant Nathan Voss snap from 45 metres out ended a run of frustrating misses from the Demons at around the 17-minute mark of the third to put the side 13 points up before two big goals late in the term from Shannon Marsh and Darren Sheen extended the margin out to 23 with a quarter left to play.
It was around the seven-minute mark of the last that Sheen effectively iced the game for the Demons with a long-range effort on the move – finishing off some Cammarano brilliance.
He finished with a cool half-dozen majors, delivering a reminder to the Cora Lynn faithful of just what he used to deliver in their colours back in the day.
He kicked more than 370 goals in just three years in a Cobras guernsey early in his senior career, including two season hauls of more than 130 majors.
Some outside the walls of Kooweerup had written off Sheen as having any significant impact in the latter stages of his career. They were horribly mistaken.
Come the moment, come the time for the big man to deliver – and that’s exactly what he did.
Nathan Muratore, yet another former premiership-winning Cobra, was hugely influential throughout the contest – particularly with his booming kicks clearing the defensive 50 and setting up attacking forays.
And fittingly, these former Cora Lynn players will take on their old side next.
If they bring anything like the sustained effort and intensity that they did in their elimination final, they’ll be a hell of a hard side to knock off.
Click below to watch the Demons belt out their famous song after a stirring WGFNC elimination final win…