THE Bega Bombers’ finals aspirations are over.
However, the Bombers came agonisingly close to reaching the semi-finals in their debut season.
Bega was brave during Saturday’s must-win clash, but fell to the Pambula Panthers by two points.
The result means the Bombers will finish the Sapphire Coast Australian Football League senior competition in fifth place.
However, Bombers playing-coach Matt Fleet said it wasn’t a heart-breaking loss.
“We’re all smiles, it was a great game,” he said.
“It’s all learning for next year and it will make all the players and people around the club stronger.
“We’re going to miss [the finals], but it’s been an amazing year.”
Fleet said the teams engaged in a “tough scrap” on Saturday, praising his troops for standing up to the challenge.
He said Bega’s best players included Aaron Wheatley, Adam Blacka, Shaun Bell, Todd Harnett and Chris Dwyer.
Fleet singled out Justin Welsford for tagging Pambula captain Sean Smith out of the game, while he said young ruckman Brent Lucas, 16, was “massive”.
“We just hung in there, it’s the same old story,” Fleet said.
“These boys have all got heart and will fight to the death.
“They have the willpower to keep trying, push through and persist.”
However, the match at the Bega Showground wasn’t without its controversy.
A number of players were given yellow cards, including Bega’s Harnett and Dwyer, meaning they spent 10 minutes off the field.
In unusual circumstances, a Bomber called out to the umpire that Pambula had too many players on the field.
Following a recount, Pambula had the correct number, and the Panthers were awarded a free kick and 50-metre penalty due to “time wasting”.
Fleet said it was a pivotal moment in the game because Wheatley was set to line up for goals.
“But we don’t want to dwell on it, we will move forward,” he said.
A strong breeze aided the Panthers in the first quarter, helping them kick seven goals to one.
Bega was able to take advantage in the second, booting nine goals and conceding just three to cut the deficit to two points at half time.
The Panthers took the ascendancy in the third term, but were inaccurate, kicking just one major from seven scoring opportunities.
Bega trailed by 12 points heading into the last break.
Fleet said the wind had died down, but the Bombers were still able to nail six goals to five.
However, it wasn’t enough, as the Panthers took a 16.14 (110) to 16.12 (108) victory.
Saturday did prove a winner for the Bombers off the field.
Following play, the club held its trivia and auction night at the Commercial Hotel.
Around 120 people attended the fundraiser that helped raise over $2500 for the Bombers.
The highest-selling auction item was boxing shorts signed by Muhammad Ali, which fetched $750.
“It was a terrific day and night for the club,” Fleet said.