The race to finals in the Bendigo Bank Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara Football League and Netball Association seasons received a grandstand finish on Saturday.
The final five in both A Grade competitions were unresolved heading into the final round.
On the football field, the ultimate playoff was between Naracoorte and Bordertown with the winner rewarded a finals berth, while the loser excited the stage.
The contest matched the hype as both teams sensed what was on the line and went for it.
The Roosters and Demons went goal for goal and despite the former being forced to endure the 82km road trip, the visitors led by a single point at quarter time.
Bordertown sent a shockwave through the home crowd by dominating the second term as Rory Tink, Lewis Crawford and Curtis McCarthy pressed hard.
Five goals to one pushed the Roosters 24 points up by the main break and in prime position.
However, Naracoorte turned the tables in a season-defining third term.
The forward line of Rory Taggert, Joshua Gregg and Sam Wilson showcased their skills to close within two points of the lead.
With the fate of two evenly-matched sides going down to the final quarter of the home-and-away season, fans were on the edge of their seats and the energy around the Naracoorte Sporting Complex added further fuel to the home team’s momentum.
When the pressure was on Bordertown only managed one major, while the Demons kicked three straight to head into finals with a thrilling eight-point victory.
Keenan Jacobs and Sam Bates were the heroes, while Tink led the Roosters’ assault.
Lucindale’s shot at finals was denied by minor-premier Mundulla.
After a hotly contested opening quarter the Northern Tigers extracted a 21-point lead thanks to the hard work of Jake McGrice, Dylan Mosey and Reagan Tink.
But the Roos bounced back big time sensing one last sniff at keeping their 2021 hopes alive.
The home team’s assault was led by the boot of Sam Williams with six goals, while Lachie Jones and Samuel Mardling ran riot.
In the end, Mundulla’s class proved too strong with the scoreboard reading 78-66 at the final siren.
The battle for the double chance went to Padthaway convincingly after a crushing first half left the Keith Crows stoned.
The red-hot Lions charged out of the blocks to register a 51-point advantage before the main break as Joshua Vandermeer and Tobin Cox starred with seven goals between them.
Nathan McCarthy and Thomas Edwards were also instrumental.
The Crows clawed back some ground when play resumed with George Johnson and Sam Tooley kicked multiple majors.
But it was to no avail as Padthaway marched into finals with a 44-point victory.
Penola legend Adam Merrett ran onto the football field for one last time at the seaside venue of Kingston.
“Hoggett” gritted through his hamstring issues to send off his decorated career in style by leading the Eagles’ goal-kicking list with three memorable majors.
But sadly Penola could be inspired to a fairytale victory as the Saints marched ahead after quarter time.
The Eagles had an inkling trailing by 22 points at the final break, but the likes of James Siviour, Ryan Reavley and Chad Wood were too good.
Kingston sealed second spot with the 91-63 win.
The biggest surprise occurred at Frances where wooden-spoon holders Kybybolite knocked off Border Districts by 14 points.
A slow start failed to prevent the Tigers from clawing back the deficit across four gripping quarters of football.
The home team enjoyed quadruple the amount of scoring shots in the first quarter and a one-goal lead at the final change thanks to Shawn Mansell’s bag of four.
However, Kyby was determined to finish a tough season on a high and Bradley Castine guided his team past the finish line in an uplifting final term.
The KNTNA finale was far from overshadowed with Mundulla, Naracoorte and Kybybolite fighting for the all-important fifth position on the ladder.
The contest was decided by the barest of margins as the Northern Tigers and Demons both recorded the same figure of wins and match ratio, but the former received a postseason ticket.
Mundulla managed to scrape into the final five despite going down to Lucindale in a tight contest.
Little separated the rivals across the four quarters before the shooting prowess of Jessica Bittner (32 goals) and Trudy Lane (22) pushed the Roos over the line.
However, the slender losing margin of nine goals was enough to ensure the Northern Tigers’ percentage eclipsed Naracoorte’s figure, even after the heart beat true for the red and blue.
After an even opening term, the Demons pulled clear of Bordertown by nine goals.
But the Roosters closed to within six goals before the final break thanks to the efforts of Mel Jarrett and Natalie Twigden.
With everything to play for, Naracoorte held on 48-40, but the margins was not enough.
Kyby needed a victory and results to go their way to reach the final five, but neither happened against Border Districts at Frances.
Kybybolite was in with a fair shout leading by one goal at the main break.
However, Emma Hausler had other ideas and her solo effort of 36 of her side’s 38 goals pushed Border Districts to a 38-29 win.
The biggest upset of the season almost occurred in the final game when winless Padthaway welcomed minor-premier Keith to its home courts.
Kaitlyn Ward and Aimee Hoyle did their upmost to push the struggling Lions to an emotional victory over the Crows, but the premiership favourites did enough to avoid embarrassment.
Penola had the bye and warmed up for this weekend’s qualifying final against Border Districts.