The first match of our 2017 season was an away game against the Vampires, where we didn’t have to travel too far to Widdup Crescent around the corner from The Boss. There was deliberately no mention of last years GF defeat against the same opponent, given we’re in a new season with several welcomed new faces in the team including Luke Ryan, Will Simos, Marco Giampa and Jackson Jury all making their Rovers debut, as well as Josh Nicholl with his first game in the age group. The excitement in rooms in the lead up was there to be seen by all, with players being presented their jumpers and new Rovers bags to all new players.
A quick overview of the team structure and some basic game plan messages hopefully wasn’t information overload for the boys. Ted led the boys onto the ground, who earnt the Round 1 privilege through his attitude and commitment throughout our preseason.
As the match got underway the footy was hotly contested for the first 5 minutes, and even though there wasn’t too much clean possession from either team the footy found its way trapped in our back half. The defence withstood the initial onslaught with Jackson and Ben S providing good resistance, but we were unable to clear from the congestion. Eventually we conceded the first goal of the game, but more disappointedly, after we had our first positive entry into the forward line they were able to rebound and set up their second goal to put us on the back foot. Josh B then started to win some 1 on 1 battles across half back, and to the boys credit our pressure and work rate lifted. Arch started to let the opposition know there were not going to be many easy kicks to be had, and along with Kyle provided penetrating kicks into our forward half, where Luke showed his class with his handballing to advantage. We controlled the ball in our half of the ground through Oli H working hard at ground level and along with Matteo hit our leading targets up forward. Whilst we managed our first goal, it felt like we deserved more reward for our effort in the latter part of the quarter.
Our work rate and pressure continued to lift in the second quarter inspired by Kai, in what turned out to be a real arm wrestle with neither side damaging the scoreboard. The last line of defence in Jake T and James were resolute, and Maxie C displayed sure hands taking a quality overhead mark under extreme pressure. There was plenty of good ball movement starting with the rebound run of Josh D, Nicho getting prominent along the wings and Elliot starting to find space across half forward. We probably controlled possession, but once again it felt like we didn’t capitalise on our good work, until a deep forward entry from Will S led to scramble in the goal square where Marco manufactured his second goal for the game right on the siren, giving the Rovers momentum going into half time.
From the start of the 3rd quarter the Vampires got on top of centre clearances and started to open us up through the middle of the ground. Their easy forward entry didn’t give our backline much of a chance, and the game seemed to be taken away from us in a 5 minute lapse. We continue to fight our way back into the contest through the defensive efforts of Lucas R, pressure from Jenson, and Maso relentlessly willing himself into the contested footy. However, after conceding a late goal, the boys came into the ¾ time huddle somewhat despondent.
The coaches had genuine belief that the Rovers could work their way back into the game, and after instructing the boys to take the game on, the last quarter started will real energy with Josh N continuing to fight hard at ground level. With quality ball movement directed through Ted, moved to CHF giving to provide us a focal point, we managed to post the first goal of the quarter. The coaching box was up and about and there was genuine hope of a Rovers comeback. But when the Vampires got a goal against the run of play, that seemed to stop the Rovers momentum that was building. In the end the scoreboard perhaps didn’t reflect the effort, endeavour and ball movement that we displayed throughout the game.
Summary – The main point we focused on post-game was how happy the boys are to be back playing footy! Whilst it was a solid performance to start the season, we highlighted the importance of maintaining work rate and effort for 100% of the game, as well a better capitalising up forward from the good work up the ground. The ball movement was very sharp at times making effective use of the space along the wings, but we got beaten through the corridor where we need to push more numbers and apply pressure to the opposition.
Coaches Ash & Sean