AT TONGALA they are daring to believe.
A powerful weapon with the finals a week away but after routing league heavyweight Echuca United by a massive 80 points at the weekend the Blues looked locked and loaded at exactly the right time of the year.
Eagles coach Guy Campbell had no answers for why his team played its worst game of the year against Tonny producing its best.
But after years of scratching and clawing to get to a finals campaign, belief is sky high in Tonny town.
A battle of local rivalry with Echuca United, enshrined in the Campaspe Cup, was always going to be a chance to make some sort of statement against one of the competition’s best sides.
And though many thought it was possible, few would have foreseen just how complete a statement that would be.
It began with the expected even opening quarter but from there on there was nothing the Eagles could do to stop the Tonny tornado, which was irresistible for the rest of the match.
Coach Jordan Souter told an electrified dressing room post game the Blues had now set their own bar – hammering home the belief they were capable of beating any side on the day when they played their best football.
It won’t take them long to see just how big a threat they are – in this weekend’s last round of the home and away season – they play the league-leading Nathalia juggernaut.
But in Saturday’s wash up, and in the understatement of the day, Souter told the Riv he couldn't be happier.
“It was a fantastic effort for the team," he said.
“We prepared the best we have all year for today because we want that top four spot – and double chance – and we’ve put ourselves in the position where we can get it. We want to make the most of the work we have done this year, and today we were able to do so.
“If we keep playing our best football, we truly believe we can go somewhere as a side.
“We’ve worked hard all season to get to the position we are in, now we need to capitalise on it.”
Souter himself produced, named best on ground for his Blues, while Makenzie Ryan booted five majors to go with a pair of triples from Coby Mccarthy and Anthony Dennis.
But while there were standouts, Souter was more than happy to share the love to the whole club.
“We had 22 contributors,” he said.
“Every player did something great today. To get a result like this you need everyone to be playing their role, and we did exactly that.”
Souter said it was important for his team to eliminate the mental demons of their previous match.
“We showed up for the Finley game before the bye and we were poor,” he said.
“Mentally we weren’t switched on and it showed, they well and truly outplayed us. We knew after that showing if we wanted to give ourselves the best opportunity we needed to improve a lot this week, and I’m excited by the way we did.”
While the Blues played the game of their lives, the highly fancied Eagles produced easily their worst performance of the year.
They were not at full strength, but few could have expected the performance.
Josh Mellington added another four majors to his record-breaking season tally, while milestone man Dean Moon, in his 100th match for the Eagles, was named best on ground.
Campbell said the club was disappointed by the result; but held high praise for the opposition.
“You never come out expecting to lose like that,” he said.
“We wanted to get the win, it didn’t pan out our way on the day, and full credit to Tonny, they outplayed us and were able to get the win. They were very, very strong at the footy, we weren't able to stand up to it.
“We couldn’t match them, we couldn’t break even with them across the ground and when you play against a good side and can’t stand up to how they play, you are never going to get on top of them.”
While the result wasn't ideal, Campbell thinks there will be a lot for his side to take from the result.
“(A substantial loss) it's not going to hurt,” he said.
“We know in our inner sanctum who didn't perform, who missed and who got hurt during the game. There are a lot of different elements to a result, so we know what we need to change to change it, to get the performance we want the next time we line up for a game.
“They're a good side, the played some fantastic football, and we will learn a lot from what we saw today.”
United will also face another litmus test this weekend when it takes on third placed Numurkah.