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14 August 2019
By Colin MacGillivray
While Nhill still appears certain to win the Wimmera Football League wooden spoon, the Tigers can celebrate one stunning success this season.
On Saturday the club defeated league superpower Horsham for the first time in nearly two decades, coming from behind at quarter time to overpower the Demons 13.11 (89) to 6.10 (46).
While the Tigers have toiled hard for little reward this season, they were a better side than their 1-12 record entering round 16 suggested.
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Horsham, meanwhile, will miss the finals for the first time since 2001 and has lost its past six games amid an injury-stricken season.
Instrumental in the win for Nhill were onballer Jake Harrap, captain Liam Albrecht and forward Scott Hughes.
All three have been among the most consistent performers for the Tigers, playing every game this season.
Harrap, who should again figure prominently in the team’s best and fairest after finishing runner-up last year, put his stamp on the game, finishing with a goal in a best-on-ground performance.
Albrecht gave the team drive from the half-back line while the nuggety Hughes, who has been one of the team’s top goal-kicking options all season, slotted five majors. Also influential for Nhill were Toby Case and Ben Jones. For Horsham, it was once again captain Ben Lakin who stood up under siege.
Lakin has been named the Demons’ best or second-best player in eight of his 12 games this season – a sign of how busy he has been in the backline.
Other contributors for Horsham were Rhys Barber, Alex Harfield and Brodie Mines, while head coach Deek Roberts and assistant Tim Wade each kicked two goals.
While neither Nhill nor Horsham will feature in the finals this year, the top five sides are now jockeying for post-season positioning.
Southern Mallee Giants got an important leg up in the scramble for a top three place when they barely survived a tense encounter with Dimboola.
The Roos looked likely to snatch their fourth win of 2019 when they led by eight points at three quarter time, with Sam Godden, Matthew Rosier, Jarryd Graham and forwards Mitch Jorgensen and Michael Pohlner leading the way.
But the Giants did just enough to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the final term as centre Lou White, forward Riley Lehmann and defender Matt Bellinger all stood up to help deliver a 7.18 (60) to 8.9 (57) win.
The Giants now lead fourth-placed Stawell by four points after the Warriors succumbed to Ararat 17.10 (112) to 8.5 (53).
Forward Jack Ganley, four goals, and midfield brothers Nick and Dan Mendes were the architects of the win for the Rats, while for Stawell it was the likes of Cam Kimber, Paul Summers and Tom Taurau who stood up.
The Warriors can still finish in third place but must win their final two games to do so, while Ararat is safe in second place as long as it can win one of its remaining contests against Horsham or Minyip-Murtoa.
The Burras have top spot sewn up and are still yet to lose a game, but had another wasteful day in front of goals against Warrack Eagles at the weekend.
Minyip-Murtoa booted 6.19 (55) to the Eagles’ 2.5 (17) to win comfortably, but coach John Delahunty is likely to put the Burras through their goal-kicking paces at training before the finals.
The team has recorded an errant 174 goals and 192 behinds this season, including performances of 1.8 against Horsham Saints, 20.23 against Dimboola and 8.19 against Southern Mallee Giants.
Minyip-Murtoa will play Nhill this week, while the Eagles have a bye.
Other matches will see Horsham host Ararat, Dimboola travel to Stawell and Southern Mallee Giants at Hopetoun against Horsham Saints.