By Nick Creely
SOUTH EAST FOOTBALL NETBALL LEAGUE
REVIEW – ROUND 3 (SPLIT ROUND)
With the game well and truly on the line midway through the last quarter, Officer dug deep and showcased a new found maturity in their football.
And as a result, the Kangaroos move to a 3-0 record, and set themselves up for a chance to finally push towards clinching their first finals berth since 2004.
Back to the game – played on Anzac Day in front of a healthy, vocal crowd – and Pakenham threw everything they had at the Kangaroos, with the Lions discovering a harder edge to their football in the opening three rounds.
At three quarter time, the score read Officer 10.2 (62) to Pakenham 8.6 (54), and yes, the game was as tightly contested and fierce as the scoreboard suggests, with contested ball a must and defending well of the utmost importance.
Most people in the crowd would agree that the Kangaroos were likely to run over the top and have just enough class to stave off a Lion surge after the two sides kept pace in a hotly contested opening three quarters.
But the Lions kept coming, and after Steven O’Bryan coolly slotted a set shot from outside 50 metre arc after a 50 metre penalty only moments later, it was game on once again.
The sheer toll of pressure placed on the Lions eventually broke, and the Kangaroos’ maturity shone through, with Michael Thompson slotting a brilliant goal from the pocket and moments later icing the game with a set shot that was steered through on the goal line.
It ended a brave resistance from the Lions, who kept running despite James Waldon and Stephen Heppel unrelenting in defence, with coach Ash Green explaining that the group is disappointed with certain aspects but could hold their head high at their overall improvement in games.
“We need to play four quarters of football, it was a big occasion and we’re certainly disappointed in the result,” he said.
“More disappointing was the fact that we have six goals from undisciplined acts, and that hurts.
“We certainly got better after starting a bit slowly, but we’re under no illusions that we have plenty of work to do.”
While the Kangaroos eventually ran over the top with ruckman Sean Roach – the eventual Anzac Day Medal winner – playing a colossal final term and having a major say on the result, Green expected his side to win.
“I was quietly confident with our fitness – we needed to score early, and we didn’t, and free kicks against us were certainly deflating in the end,” he said.
“To Officer’s credit, they defended really well, but we’re a new team this year and it probably doesn’t help, but it creates excitement going forward.”
Roach was brilliant for the Kangaroos in the ruck and has come on in leaps and bounds, while Stephen Hawkins (three goals) hit the scoreboard in a dynamic display.
The Kangaroos eventually ran out 14.7 (91) to 10.7 (67) winners.
Down at Berwick, reigning premiership coach Stewart Kemperman was still left a bit disappointed in some inconsistency in patches throughout the game.
Coming up against Doveton on Saturday at Edwin Flack Reserve, the Wickers were always going to be far too strong, slick and experienced, but the final margin, 22.13 (145) to 8.8 (56) – nearly 15 goals – was perhaps not reflective of the game after quarter time.
It seemed it would be a scary day at the office for the Doves when the home side piled on eight unanswered goals to take a 46 point quarter time lead.
Madi Andrews, Ash Smith and the impassable Jo West were destructive early, but it was a Money show, in the name of dynamic small forward Harry.
A brilliant snapping goal from 35 out in the first quarter got him off to a perfect start, and from there it was a masterclass of speed, elusiveness and an aerial presence as good as any, ending with three first quarter goals – including a brilliant running goal that featured speed and dare -that quickly ballooned out to an astonishing six by half time.
An almighty bake from Doves coach Daniel Charles did wake the visitors up briefly in the second term, with Russ Gabriel starting to take some control in the stoppages, Matthew Boyd using all of his experience to marshal the backline and exciting forward Riley D’Arcy (three goals) getting hold of Will Arthurson in an intriguing battle and taking several contested marks deep forward.
Despite more brilliance from Money, the Doves equalized the quarter despite the Wickers looking ominous once again in attack with Travis Tuck and Bryce Rutherford all spending time isolated as the deepest forward and Andrews often using his laser foot to find teammates in space.
While the Wickers slammed on 10 second half goals – including a further three from Money – all from different angles and distances – to finish with nine in a game that sees him climb to the top of the goal kicking table – the Doves proved that their best football has the potential to match it in patches, with young guns Gach Nyuon and Will Smith combining to give a glimpse of the club’s future.
“We certainly started well in response to last round’s loss to Narre Warren, and I couldn’t really fault the guys’ efforts in the first quarter, and our intent and enthusiasm,” Kemperman said of his side’s performance.
“From there, we lost our way a little bit, and credit to Doveton, they fought back and we were a little reactive in transition – we didn’t quite play that quarter, and perhaps part of the third quarter the way we wanted to.
“We addressed that at three quarter time, and I think the intent was there in the last quarter, despite the scoreboard not ticking over, it probably should have been a lot more, but our intent was better.”
But Kemperman warned his side is well off where they need to be, and is confident that once they find the right mix, there will be a more consistent four quarter effort.
“We’re certainly not at our best at the minute, and in terms of our selection we’re waiting on a few players to come back from injury – we had two debutants over the weekend, Dylan Morris and Mat McLardy, and they did really well,” he said.
“Our best footy is still ahead of us, and finding that right balance of players – there’s still quite a bit of movement with selection, and there’s some change to come, and we’ll have to manage that smartly.”
Meanwhile, Cranbourne flexed its muscles and made Tooradin’s homecoming a painful experience on Anzac Day, with the Eagles’ blistering seven goal final term seeing them move to a 2-2 record, 9.11 (65) to 18.13 (121).
The two sides battled it out in the traditional Anzac Day blockbuster, with the rivals getting the first look at the new turf, and it was certainly a hot start.
A classy set shot from Seagull recruit Dean Warry got the home side on the board, but the Eagles worked its way back from an early 13 point deficit to enter the quarter time break with a handy seven point lead.
And a pair of 50 metre penalties – which resulted in easy goals to Dylan Cavalot and Tom Marks – made it a dominant second quarter by the visitors and undid a half of pressure and intensity, streaming out to a 26 point lead at the major break.
The Seagulls refused to give in and worked its way back into the contest, slashing the margin back to as much as 15 points at three quarter time, with Luke McKenna and Jason Kestle’s drive off half back, and typically industrious performances by Warry, Matt Sloper and skipper Matt Livermore keeping them within arm’s reach of an upset.
“We planned well for them, and we knew what to expect from them – we’re confident that we’re a fit side, and we’ve proven that all year,” Eagles coach Steve O’Brien said after his side then slammed on seven unanswered goals to run out 56 point winners.
“Looking back to the Narre Warren game, we didn’t have a bench for the majority but kept coming at them, but you’re always a bit worried about the opposition, but we just had to trust our system and it paid off in the end.”
That fitness O’Brien speaks of certainly came to the fore in a sensational last quarter that began from the bounce of the ball.
Marking on the lead from 30 out, the commanding Nathan Gardiner (five goals) slotted a major in the opening minute to stretch the margin out to 21. Despite a barrage of inside 50’s, the Seagulls repelled the ball, but the dam wall was always going to burst wide open.
Gardiner goaled once again after a superb, laser like pass from Anthony Vella, before the classy midfielder snapped truly. The wall had been broken.
A tiring Seagulls outfit could not match the intensity of Vella and his Eagles, with the Port Melbourne listed player running home strong to take out the Anzac Day Medal as his side slammed home four more goals in the last 11 minutes.