The Eden Whalers defeated the Narooma Lions 15.8 (98) to 10.13 (73)
Paul “Plugger” Kirkby’s 400th SCAFL game milestone gave the Eden Whalers something to strive for on Saturday, and they did not disappoint.
Whalers coach Greg Hooper said the feeling around the club was “terrific” after helping the veteran player celebrate the day.
“A really big incentive was Plugger’s 400th and that spurred the guys on, which was pleasing,” Hooper said.
“It is 400 games, not just in SCAFL, but for the one club at Eden.
“It’s a massive achievement, when you’ve only got so many sides it takes so long to accumulate,” he said.
One of the biggest squads available this season was ready to play at training, but Hooper had some quiet concerns on Saturday morning.
“I was a little bit worried, we had 30 to pick from then come Saturday we were down to 18 because of work commitments and blokes being crook.
“It went from our strongest line-up to a bare minimum,” he said.
Hooper’s son Matt visited from Melbourne and donned a jersey, but the remainder of the team was filled with Eden players.
“The rest of the boys were all the local lads, which was exciting to see.”
Eden dominated the opening passages of play, picking up an early 40-point lead in the opening quarter.
Hooper said it was good to bag a win without any club cross-overs.
“That was the pleasing thing about it, they came to win and so did we.
“It really got down to the guys who have been around the club all year.”
Narooma fought back in the second quarter to close the deficit to 30-points, but momentum stayed in favour of the Whalers.
Strong turnouts at training have resulted in a stronger on-field showing.
“The guys that we have got realise now that you’ve really got to put in at training, you don’t put in you don’t get out.
“The culture has improved and they are enjoying the challenge more so now than in previous years.
The third quarter provided a tight tussle between the two squads.
Shane Crowe led the goal-kicking for the Whalers with four majors on the board.
Steve Martino, Plugger and Kane Kirkby also added three goals each.
The final quarter went the way of the Whalers who took a decisive win.
The squad is now eager to end the season on a high.
“We definitely want to go out with another win,” he said.
Hooper said he had received some calls from other clubs saying how good it was to see Eden stepping up.
“It is great for the competition, it makes people more aware that you get rewarded for hard work.
“We are going in fairly confident this week.”
Hooper - who took on the coaching role at the start of the year - said it was good to see numbers returning to the AFL.
“There is room for two or three major codes down here, it brings a few dollars into town and gives people a brighter outlook.
“Sport is up and about around Eden,” he said.
Fans have been coming out of the woodwork and the club was also delighted to receive positive feedback from the community.
Hooper is now considering the future and hoped to continue the growth of the club.
“I would like to see it keep improving, we are still a long way from the top echelon, but as long as we continue to improve it will be better for the club and better for the town.
“Football is a big part of my life and I probably haven’t finished something I started so we’ll see what happens over summer.”