An emotional Queanbeyan Tigers farewelled the North East Australian Football League in style with a stirring 36-point victory against the Eastlake Demons at Dairy Farmers Park on Saturday.
In their final game in the NEAFL before dropping back to the AFL Canberra competition next year, the Tigers banged on five straight goals at the start of the last quarter to give their loyal home fans something to smile about.
It's been a difficult season on and off the field for a club that just two years ago won the NEAFL Eastern Conference premiership.
The Tigers have won just four of their 18 games this season, and along with the Belconnen Magpies, decided to withdraw from the NEAFL due to financial reasons.
It was also Ryan Quade's last game as captain of the Tigers after he decided to step down after eight years as the club's skipper to usher in some fresh blood.
"It's important to finish the season on a bit of a high," Quade said.
"It was a bit of a weird feeling this morning, everyone knew it was the last game, and we know we're going to lose a lot of players next year.
"Everyone was a bit emotional and not sure how to act."
Quade, who turns 30 in a couple of months, said he hadn't decided whether he would remain at the club next year or move to Ainslie or Eastlake to continue to play in the NEAFL.
He said there were some concerns about the health of Australian football in the region after a turbulent few seasons following the transition to the national second-tier competition.
"The competition has a long history here, so we want to make sure that can continue," Quade said. "Hopefully we can get some stability and offer a good environment for the young blokes coming through."
After leading by 12 points at quarter time, the Tigers extended their advantage to 32 points at the main break, before Eastlake kicked the last four goals of the third quarter to get within nine points.
But the Tigers went on a run of their own, with five straight majors after coach Adrian Pavese delivered a simple message with one quarter left in their season.
"There's no next week, this is our grand final and we wanted to finish really well," Pavese said.
"Give Eastlake their due, they've got a lot of injuries and had a lot of young blokes playing.
"To play the first 10 minutes of the last quarter the way we did was really pleasing."
The news wasn't as good for Belconnen, which suffered a 55-point loss to Ainslie at Alan Ray Oval, going down 16.12 (108) to 7.10 (53).
Ainslie will turn its focus to the finals next week and will likely face the NT Thunder in Darwin if, as expected, the Sydney Swans beat the Hills Eagles on Sunday.
NEAFL: Ainslie 16.12 (108) bt Belconnen 7.10 (53) at Alan Ray Oval on Saturday. Queanbeyan Tigers 15.16 (106) bt Eastlake Demons 11.4 (70) at Dairy Farmers Park on Saturday.