By Russell Bennett

“I know some of us have waited one year to win this flag, some have waited five, and some have waited 31. We don’t get to say the players won it, or ‘they’ won it. What we get to say is that ‘we’ won it.”
Inverloch Kongwak coach Ben Soumilas knew the significance of Saturday’s history-making win over Cora Lynn in Wonthaggi extended far beyond the 21 blokes who took to the field for the Sea Eagles, and far beyond the coaching staff or current committee.
It was for everyone associated with the club who’d done the hard yards and been through the tough times over more than three decades. They each shared in a piece of it.
So, when Soumilas and his players stepped up to accept the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition’s first ever senior premiership trophy, it was with an entire community in mind.
The performance of those 21 blokes though – that will become the stuff of legend.
It wasn’t that they beat Cora Lynn for the fourth time in a year, or even that they defeated the three-time reigning premier on the last day of the season. It was how they did it – with a ruthless, dominant, 95-point thumping that left those watching boundary-side in awe.
Rarely has a whole team performance in a grand final been so complete as Saturday’s was in the Sea Eagles 18.18(126) to 4.7(31) win.
Not only was Inverloch the first side to settle, it was the first to impose itself on the contest – storming to a 29-point quarter time lead while keeping the Cobras goalless.
The former all-conquering Ellinbank league side seemed shell-shocked, particularly after a quarter-time scuffle saw some fans getting too caught up in the action.
Goals to Travis Woodfield and Jai Rout in the second quarter kept the Cobras alive, but even though the margin was only 25 points at the main break, the contest looked over early in the third.
It wasn’t that the Cobras lost – it was how the Sea Eagles were so dominant in front of more than 4000 fans, the likes of which had become so accustomed to seeing Cora Lynn storm to their own premierships time and time, and time again recently.
This was a dismantling – there’s no other way to describe what was such an even team performance from the last line of defence to the first line of attack.
Josh Purcell, Andy Soumilas, Adam Cross, Shem Hawking, Dylan Clark, Tom Wyatt and Tom Hams were nothing short of breathtaking, while Toby Mahoney capitalised inside 50 with seven goals in a best on ground medal-winning performance.
Fittingly, it was the whole Inverloch Kongwak side that stood up to record its club’s first senior premiership win in 31 years.
Their link-up play, their defensive pressure, their selfless acts, their hardness at the contest, their delivery forward of the centre – it was irresistible footy that belied the trying conditions.
What these Sea Eagles had showed on that first day of the new West Gippsland era under lights against the Cobras way back on 25 March was ultimately just a glimpse of what was to come. That day signified their arrival, but Saturday, 16 September 2017 is the day that will live on in history for generations of Sea Eagles to follow.
“I’ve only been involved at Inverloch for two years but this means so much to us, especially after last year and the disappointment of that loss (in the Alberton grand final to Fish Creek),” Mahoney told the Gazette straight after the game.
“To come out and win by such a margin is pretty special.
“I was pretty lucky to get on the end of a few there at times and I just did what I could.
“At the end of the day it’s the result that matters and this is great for the town – great for everyone.”
Straight after the clash, a gracious David Main stepped up to the dais to acknowledge the Sea Eagles’ performance – one that nobody who witnessed will forget in a hurry.
If anyone was in the position to acknowledge greatness, it was the Cora Lynn player-coach who retired from playing off the back of three premierships in his last four seasons.
In the victorious rooms straight after the game, Soumilas acknowledged that Cora Lynn was the side everyone else was chasing.
“All due respect to Cora Lynn. They’re so good – they’re the standard – and we’ve had to make sure we can match and cover the benchmark of the competition. That’s what we tried to do, and we accomplished it,” he said.
Now, West Gippsland footy has a new benchmark.


INVERLOCH KONGWAK     4.6       6.7       10.15   18.18 (126)

CORA LYNN                         0.1       2.6       3.6       4.7 (31)

Inverloch Kongwak Goals: T. Mahoney 7, S. Hawking 2, W. Hetherington, A. Cross, T. Bartholomew, T. Hams, T. Wyatt, D. Clark, D. Houston, C. McCaughan, C. Casey. Best: J. Purcell, T. Mahoney, A. Soumilas, C. McCaughan, A. Cross, T. Hams.

Cora Lynn Goals: T. Woodfield 2, N. Langley, J. Rout. Best: C. Johnson, A. Green, R. Gillis, R. Smith, W. Thomas, H. Briggs.

Best on ground medal: Toby Mahoney (Inverloch Kongwak).

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