SATURDAY’S Shoalhaven Football grand final played out a little bit like a Hollywood sequel that was not quite as good as the original.
You had the same two teams as the qualifying final two weeks ago and once again penalties were needed to split them.
But there were some differences to the original, notably that there were no goals and of course the ending was different.
In their semi final, Culburra looked to have it won twice, before United managed to fight back and take it on penalties, but this time it was the Cougars who had the last laugh.
While the first 90 minutes and the two periods of extra time brought no goals, there was still plenty of excitement throughout, both on and off the field.
The die-hard Culburra fans, waving their banners and pounding their drums on the hill provided a great atmosphere and the United supporters were at times just as vocal.
It seemed a little bit hard to believe neither side managed to score during regular time, but shots going over the top or hitting the crossbar became the story of the afternoon for both teams.
The first and second half brought a number of opportunities at each end, but both sides defence managed to hold strong.
Extra time saw tensions boil over off the field with the supporters and it made it difficult for the game to continue on ground.
But even with both sides doing their utmost, nothing could stop the game from going to penalties, just as it had two weeks earlier.
During their last penalty shootout it was never easy to tell who would win, but United looked like their clear frontrunner this time when their keeper Nathan Murphy pulled off a save from the first attempt.
The early advantage looked as if it might be enough to get United over the line, but with his last chance to stop another defeat, Culburra keeper Scott Merivale came up with a save to keep his team in the hunt.
While United had managed to slip their first few through without too much trouble, the confidence of making one save worked wonders for Merivale who soon came up with a second to clinch the title for the Cougars.
Culburra coach Steve Melocco said he thought his side did bloody well and while he was pleased with the end result, he would have rather got it in regulation time.
“I think we could have had about three or four goals in the first half, but the longer the game went on, the more opportunities United had to score,” Melocco said.
“We both created a lot of chances and I thought it was fairly amazing that there were no goals,” he added.
Melocco is not personally a fan of the penalty shootout concept, but said his side did well to win, particularly Scott Merivale.
“It puts a lot of pressure on people and for the first three attempts he was nowhere near them, but when he picked the one I was absolutely ecstatic.
“Scotty, to his credit has played pretty well through the finals and the only ones they’ve got past him have been from about two or three feet and he very rarely fumbles.”
By their coach Trevor Skingle’s own admission, United were terrible in the first half and were lucky not to concede.
“I got a bit cranky at half time, but I thought we probably had the better of things in the second and it was pretty even Steven’s overall,” Skingle said.
“That shows how close this competition has been and we might have got them in the semi, but they got us in the final and congratulations to them,” he added.
Skingle said he thought it was a pretty exciting final, but was very surprised there were no goals.
“If you had asked me before the game if it went down to penalties, I’d have thought the score would have been at least 2-all.
“I might have even put myself on if I’d have been on the bench and maybe I’d have got one,” he laughed.
Skingle said it was tough to lose on penalties, but at the end of the day there needs to be a winner and a loser.
“We’ve had a pretty terrific season,” he said.
“Maybe not every coach would say this, but to me, being the competition champions is the pinnacle and I was ecstatic for us to win that.
“As a club, we managed to win three out of five grand finals, so I think all the boys can hold their heads up high.”
The win secured the 10th premiership for Culburra, the most for any club in the competition and was a particularly proud moment for Melocco, who was in his first and last year of coaching in the top grade.
“I’m a one hit wonder mate,” he said.
“No one was putting their hand up at the beginning of the season and I don’t have my certificates or anything, but I thought I’d give it a go.”
Melocco said he found the emotional side of it difficult, with having to leave players out and was happy to pass the baton on for next season.
“Do I regret it, not for a minute, but I’ve had my turn and I’m pretty happy with it.”