Tears flow as Rovers comeback to sting Cities
WHEN Rovers gathered in the middle of the field after defeating Cities 2-1 in the men's Division 1 grand final Dean Whightman crouched down with tears rolling down his cheeks surrounded by his teammates.
An exhausted Whightman was overcome with the thrill of winning the club's first men's Div 1 title since 2005 and after coaching every team, men and women, from Rovers in 2014 the tears of joy were mixed with relief now the long season is over.
Whightman encouraged the team when it was 1-0 down after Cities talisman Josh Stacey smashed the ball into the back of the box with a superb individual effort, and Rovers responded to Whightman's call in style.
Captain Joshua Crow and Whightman put Rovers in front and the underdogs held on under plenty of Cities pressure as the clock counted down for the remarkable win.
"Great team effort, I don't think we had a starring player. Everybody gave 110%, everybody tried their hardest even though we were 1-0 down," Whightman said.
"The boys stuck to their task and didn't change their game plan and it was great to see them tough it out."
After the players picked Whightman up from the middle of the field they moved their celebrations to in front of the scoreboard to soak up the upset win.
The smiles turned to more tears as one player who couldn't be part of the game arrived.
Haydn Lancaster was ruled out for the season at the half-way point and was reluctant to join the victorious team.
As Lancaster moved towards the cheering mob slowly on crutches he broke down but was quickly dragged into the middle of the group to be part of the moment.
Whightman spoke passionately about Lancaster's contribution to the result privately with the team, but offered some thoughts publicly as well.
"He was probably our star player until he got injured, it's been his best season," he said.
"He kept coming to training when he could and he sat on the sideline and made the changes for me - as a player-coach its hard to see what's going on.
"He supported us and made some good changes.
"Haydn stood by us and we stood by him. He is still part of the team."
There wasn't a Rovers player who didn't find their way to Lancaster after the game and when he said he didn't want to accept a premiership medal at the presentation Lancaster was nearly dragged up to accept his award.
Cities captain Jerry Burt was understandably disappointed with the result and he paid tribute to the Rovers performance.
"Congratulations to Rovers for pulling it out when it counted," Burt said.
Men's Div 1
Rovers 2 (D Whightman, J Crow) d Cities 1 (J Stacey)
Player of the final: Joshua Crow (Rovers)
Minor premiers: Cities