THE Stags are kings of the Highlands after they cruised past Yerrinbool 2-0 in the Premier League grand-final on Saturday afternoon.
A feat made even more incredible by the fact the side played the majority of the match a man down.
But it’s now mission accomplished.
The Stags entered their first ever Highlands decider with a desire to prove to the league that Goulburn rightfully deserved their place in the regions’ top flight.
They achieved it, with an impressive defensive performance against the odds.
“They’re athletes these guys,” coach David Jones told the Post.
“Some of them are former school sprint champions and 400 metre runners. They had to scrap but they have football brains, they adapted perfectly to the changing situations.”
It was Yerrinbool who came out of the blocks early. They dominated the opening play with the Stags’ first goal, an Edan Wheeldon volley off a corner, coming against the run of play.
But things quickly went from excitement to disaster when Stag defender Chad Cosgrove was red carded 20 minutes into the first half for a foul as the last man.
It swung momentum back to Yerrinbool and presented the Stags with the almighty challenge of playing a man short for the majority of the match.
They rose to the challenge. “We reacted and played the way we had to play when Chad was sent off,” Captain Aaron Swanson said.
The Stags adopted an unusual four defender, three mid and two striker formation. Only one of their regular defenders, James Saul, was on the park. The formation kept aggressive pressure on Yerrinbool, the catch, forcing the defensive players to work harder than they had all season.
“We defended so well and dug in so deep,” Swanson said.
“It was by far our best defensive performance yet. Just phenomenal.”
Things went from bad to worse for Yerrinbool when the Stag’s leading goal scorer Jason Broadbent went on a blistering run down the right wing and was fouled.
The referee had little choice but to send him and with 15 minutes to go, it was back to even numbers.
Shortly after, Swanson beat an off-side trap on halfway and skipped 50 metres with the ball afoot to seal it for Goulburn to send the players, bench and travelling fans wild.
Edan Wheeldon was voted man of the match.
“He was just a freak. He ran all day,” Swanson said.