Starting as rank underdogs, Nuriootpa High School got to within five points of Henley High during the third quarter of the 2017 South Australian Public Schools grand final.
Held at Elizabeth Oval on Tuesday August 8, Nuriootpa played against a Henley side that included brilliant teenage West Adelaide league footballer Izak Rankine and a number of state underage players.
There opponents kicked the opening five goals of the match to set up a strong advantage and then finished in dramatic style defeating Nuri in the end by 43 points.
The final score was Henley High 12.11 (83) defeating Nuriootpa High 6.4 (40).
This end result didn’t represent the quality of the contest, as at the final break the title was up for grabs.
“We were pretty happy with the intent and endeavour of our group,” Rick Lane, co-coach of Nuri with Rob Moresi, said.
“That is our school’s first Pool A grand final for over 20 years.
“We were jumped early and they really bookended us, but we did own the middle two terms.”
Fluent ball movement and the ability to hit targets coming out of defence was a feature of Nuriootpa’s play especially in the second and third terms, along with their willingness to hunt the ball, and be ferocious at the contest.
“Oscar Barnett – known as a defender – kicked three goals as a strong marking target in attack,” Lane said.
“Jez McLennan was outstanding in defence, reading the game well and rebounded strongly.
“Skipper Cooper Dahms, around the ball, along with Dylan Tuckwell both were tough at the contest and ran hard all day.
“Beau Shinnick was an impressive performer as well, while Mitchell Norton was a rock in defence and his kicking skills were superb.
“The lads can really hold their heads up high; it was a strong performance against a high quality opponent.”
Nuriootpa’s last triumph in Pool A was back in 1990, when Terry Neville was coach.
In 2014 they won the Pool B title, defeating Faith at Woodville Oval, with Jordan Furnell winning the Brown Medal as best on ground.
His younger brother Simon was co-captain with fellow Nuriootpa Tiger Cooper Dahms, currently at the Ponderosa.
Henley’s Beau Nunan collected the Peter Roberts Medal as best on ground in this match.
To play in the All Schools Grand Final against Prince Alfred College, Henley now need to defeat Sacred Heart next week.