By Matt Fotia
When Shane Barrand kicked the match winning goal for Thornton-Eildon on the weekend to end a losing streak that spanned almost two seasons, President Dave Stirling was stunned for two reasons.
Firstly, he had already conceded that his beloved Kangaroos would suffer yet another defeat when Yea kicked a behind with less than a minute left, leaving Thornton-Eildon with the task of going ‘end-to-end’ in under 45 seconds.
“I was in the timekeepers box all afternoon and I thought that was it (when Yea moved the ball forward), we didn’t have enough time, but the boys moved it brilliantly and Shane marked it in-between two Yea blokes with two-seconds to go.”
Secondly, he was not at all confident that Barrand would be the man to kick truly and give his club its first senior win since July 15, 2017.
“Most people would usually say Shane’s kicking can be errant – he’s got a great attack on the football but sometimes his kicking lets him down,”
“I watched him in the warm up having a few set shots and thought oh jeez but full credit to him, he went back and slotted it.”
WATCH | The Last 90 Seconds of Thornton Eildon's last gasp win over Yea to grab their first win since July 29, 2017 – also against the Tigers.
— AFL OUTER EAST (@AFL_OE) June 16, 2019
With emotions running high both on the ground and in the time keepers box, Stirling spares a thought for Yea, who are also going through difficult times in 2019.
“I felt sorry for Yea, they’re in a similar position to us this year, and myself and the other timekeeper both knew this was our best chance to grab a win for the year.”
After a winless 2018 campaign the Thornton-Eildon committee spent majority of the off-season recruiting players that would help bring a sustainable culture on and off-field. Stirling believes they are on their way to achieving this goal, with captain and ruckman Deng Nai, who crossed over from East Ringwood, leading the change.
“We’ve tried to bring a different culture to the club this season and Deng has been fully committed to that cause from the day he signed on,”
“He’s still learning the game, but his attitude, leadership and commitment to the club and our vision has been first rate.”
Alongside Nai has been senior coach Darryn Leaumont, who Stirling describes as a perfect fit for the Kangaroos situation, with his patient approach to coaching.
“Darryn was appointed because of his attitude to the game and his ability to make sure everyone knows what he expects from them both on and off the field,”
“He’s taken a while to figure out exactly where the whole club is at in both regards (on and off field), but he’s a big part of where we are heading and a big part of the reason why some of the boys who have come across committed to us.”
Despite still struggling in terms of wins and losses in 2019, Stirling is adamant that Thornton-Eildon are on an upward curve. The gap between the senior side and it’s opponents is closing and the Kangaroo’s netball sides (B and C Grade) have collected three wins between them this season, also breaking their own long withstanding droughts.
“It might not look like it from afar but there’s a lot of good things happening,”
“Sometimes they don’t directly correlate onto the field, but we’re seeing some consistency from all facets of the club, there’s been less thumpings and a few wins, so I believe we are definitely heading in the right direction.”
Stirling’s expectations for the rest of 2019 are realistic. He’s not holding out for a flurry of wins, but is hopeful that the boys and girls at Thornton-Eildon can maintain their level of competitiveness all the way through the year.
“I’d like to think there’s another win or two in the pipeline, but if we can keep this level of consistency for the rest of the season I’ll be content.”