PENOLA showed themselves to be the best team of 2013 with a 22-point win over Keith in the grand final at Lucindale on Saturday.
Ten years since their last flag in 2003, Penola put together a young, talented combination this season and their excellent use of the ball was pivotal to their success.
Keith put up a gallant fight throughout the grand final, with the scores close all day. At quarter time the Crows had their nose in front by three points, while at half time it was Penola up by a solitary point.
The Eagles were able to extend the margin to 20 points late in the third term, but Keith again game back with two goals to have them within nine points at the last change.
Both sides continued to give their all in the last quarter with no goals coming for eight minutes. It was Penola who were able to find a little more at the finish to gain a break and go on and win by 22 points.
Drizzly rain fell for much of the reserves game, but thankfully cleared before the start of the A grade and conditions were fine throughout.
The Eagles pace was on show as Lachie Jones ran onto a loose ball on his non-preferred right foot for the opening goal.
Andrew Wilson was conspicuous early as the Crows were mixing it around the ground. Good teamwork saw Keith handball the ball around to end with a goal to Mitchell. Strong defence by Nick Hunt kept Penola at bay, while A. Wilson and Brad King combined up forward to send in where Bradley marked in front.
The game was a free flowing affair, as Penola were able to run forward where Jackman set the ball up for Foster to mark and kick truly. S. McMurray held out the next attempt, but the Eagles came again for B. Merrett to mark and slot it through.
The Crows were capitalising on their chances as kicks from well out by Bowley and A. Wilson brought full results. When another followed to King, Keith had five goals from five scoring chances. Penola were able to get one back to Nick Clayfield, and the height of Brad Merrett enabled him to mark for another.
However Keith had the immediate answer with Stratford gathering on the wing and his kick from well out rolled through a vacant goalsquare to make it six straight and a three point advantage at quarter time.
Stratford was able to receive unattended at half forward to kick his second at the start of the second term as Keith were looking good.
Penola were able to answer with Jones converting from an angle and shortly after Matt Willson gathered from a throw-in to deliver to Adam Merrett for his first of the day. He followed with his second, and three goals in quick succession had Penola back in front by nine points.
Drew Clayfield was restricting the dangerous McEntee but the Keith forward bobbed up with his hurried kick bouncing through.
The intensity had lifted with Lambert marking in defence and Penola transferred play for a goal. However Keith came straight back with A. Wilson finding Drogemuller and the ruckman put it through.
Neither side could gain a break with Penola adding two behinds before the Crows cleared and Makin marked well. His shot fell short, but they stayed forward for King to mark.
With the result well and truly in the balance, opposing ruckmen Coxon and Drogemuller continued their battle on resumption.
It was Adam Merrett who was able to break the deadlock, creating a goal from a half chance after McMurray dropped a mark deep in defence to extend the margin to 10 points, 10 minutes into the quarter.
A strong tackle in the middle of the ground created a turnover which the Eagles capitalised on with Willson accurate on the run. When McIntyre gathered from a pack to break clear and kick another the difference was out to 20 points.
King to A. Hunt enabled the Crows to get one back. A strong tackle by Telfer earnt a free and Statham put Keith in where Drogemuller marked and kicked accurately to bring the margin down to nine points at the last change.
Scoring dried up for a while at the start of the last and it took a clever kick by Jackman to bring up the first goal for the term at the eight minute mark.
This sparked Keith back into action, with King receiving from Makin for a six-pointer, before Penola responded with a major to Gray.
An accurate checkside kick by Adam Merrett, followed by another to Brad Merrett put Penola 26 points up. With time running out, McIntyre definitely sealed it for the Eagles, kicking accurately after pulling in a top mark. Keith battled the game out and Drogemuller was able to kick a goal on the siren, but it was Penola's day as they broke through for their first premiership since 2003.