Busselton and Carey Park fought out a league grand final for the ages on Sunday afternoon at Payne Park, with the Magpies holding on for a slender 8.13 (61) to 8.10 (58) victory. Magpies coach Daniel Delaney told the South Western Times he was thrilled with how months of planning and training had been executed by his cohesive senior squad. “It just goes to show the senior group we’ve got,” he said. “Two flags on the day, league and reserves, all due to the huge amount of work they’ve put in. “Credit to Carey Park Football Club, the game could have gone either way right until the end. I thought we played good footy all day and I couldn’t be more pleased with the effort, club and all of these players.” Delaney, a coach who prides himself on mastering situational football, leaves no detail to chance at training or on game day — and praised his side’s fitness levels in the dying minutes when the game was up for grabs. While his side did not win the 2023 premiership, Carey Park players and coach Frank Italiano won many hearts for their meteoric rise throughout the season. Having not played finals football since 2015, the Panthers also qualified for the grand final the hard way — bouncing back from an eight-goal qualifying final loss against South Bunbury to knock off both Donnybrook in the first semifinal and Tigers in the preliminary final. In the end, they came within a few minutes of breaking their 14-year premiership drought, an outcome not lost on Italiano. “To my boys, my club, and supporters — we’ve come from nowhere,” he said on the grand final dias. “No one gave us a hope, but we were a big hope, and we’ll be back, don’t worry about that.” Several emerging league players in the Carey Park senior squad have been under Italiano’s coaching guidance for many years, doing his stint as the Panthers’ colts coach and youth-age level with the Marist Junior Football Club.