Back at Castlefield today for the penultimate home and away round against Bentleigh. We were saddened to hear during the week that Oscar had suffered a fracture in his collarbone last week, care of a tough tackle that took him to ground. There is only one thing to do in these circumstances, and that is recruit him into the coach’s circle to draw on his expertise in under 11 football! Thanks for all your help today Oscar, the boards were always up to date, the boys all listened intently to all you had to say, and you provided some great insight during the game. This kid has such a positive attitude it’s infectious – no one would have known his season is under threat the way he smiled and the enthusiasm he showed today. With a bit of luck, we see you back before the end of the season, but otherwise you have a permanent spot as an assistant coach open for you!
Will M played his 50th game today and he was joined by Will S as our captains for the day. We don’t seem to be able to lose the wind of late, and today was no exception with a gale blowing into the canteen pocket. We kicked into the wind in the first quarter and it was clear Bentleigh had come to play early as they used the wind to their advantage and relentlessly attacked in the first half of the first quarter, very quickly putting on 3 points, which could easily have been three goals.
The boys down back were frantic with Jake F bringing order to the back half, supported by Bailey M and Matty G on the full back line and Ollie, Matty C and Tobey at half back doing all they could to prevent Bentleigh from skipping out to an early lead. Well done boys, you all stuck to the task admirably early when the heat was on.
The centre square took a slightly different look early with Max and Zac starting with Charlton and Harry W at the first bounce. All settled into the game, particularly the more the quarter wore on. Jake S and Thomas were doing a lot of running and support work on the wings and along with the boys in the middle turned the game back to our advantage and helped start a late goal rush. Max was using his body very well, but once again showed us he is not just about knocking the opposition over but has developed a silky skill level to complement his physical attack on the ball.
Harry W began to get plenty of the ball and run the lines, sending the ball forward at every opportunity. James continued his great recent form, Bailey S was using his body to great effect – another boy with terrific skills, and Will S and Robbie with a rare opportunity up forward were looking dangerous when given an opportunity.
Stefan was at full forward and was reading the wind better every minute the quarter progressed, so close to getting on the end of 2-3 opportunities during the quarter. The rotations brought some additional class onto the ground, with Wes and Harry B moving onto and complimenting the half back line, Hugo looking dangerous at half forward, and Niko took a great mark at half forward and almost converted.
Giddy went to centre half forward and had immediate impact on the game. It was Giddy who scored the first goal of the game – Will M took a mark and kicked the ball towards the goal square where Giddy marked, went back and goaled. Not long after Harry W dodged through traffic and kicked the ball along the ground through for a great goal. Now we were away!
The quarter rounded out with Giddy back into the play, collecting the ball, dodging through traffic, including a “don’t ague” before passing the ball off to Will M who goaled – a great way to kick off his 50th! So, we went into quarter time three goals up – a great result kicking into the wind.
The second quarter was hard work, plenty of attacking but similarly to last week we often found ourselves attacking from the dead pocket. Bentleigh employed a game plan that saw them flood our forward line, increasing the difficulty to score.
The midfield worked really hard to try and create opportunities for the forwards, but it was hard going. Matty G continued Charlton’s great work in the ruck, Wes, Giddy and Harry B’s work rate was outstanding. Tobey had a run on the wing and was getting his hands on it, whilst Zac was on the other wing running his opponent ragged and mopping up plenty of the ball.
Other than finding themselves pulled forward our defence had a quiet quarter. Charlton, Ollie and Thomas did some great work forming a wall and playing one kick behind the play to ensure the ball didn’t move past the centre line.
Unfortunately, our milestone boy and captain for the day – Will M took at knock to the head not long after coming on and was forced off. The medic couldn’t rule out concussion, so Will’s day was over. Such a pity as he was off to a great start and was looking very dangerous. Better to be safe than sorry, but Will thankfully seemed ok as he sat out the balance of the game on the bench.
Although hard to find space, James and Will S were giving us plenty up forward. The two goals we kicked came via two free kicks. Firstly, Wes who was having a great game got sling tackled and was rightly paid a free kick which he converted and just before the break Harry B received high tackle and also went back and converted. These two boys were really putting their bodies on the line and were unlucky not to receive more free kicks through the game.
The boys held Bentleigh scoreless and went into half time with a handy 5 goal lead. We would have our work ahead of us though heading back into the wind in the third. With all the momentum our way we started to introduce the idea of working as a team in a selfless way to help the five boys who had not scored goals get on the scoreboard.
The opportunities need to be there though, and we first got on the board with Giddy hunting the ball and snapping truly. Not long after Harry W found himself out near the boundary, sent the ball in board to the hot spot and found Jake S who marked and converted.
Matty G took two terrific marks up forward but couldn’t pierce the wind. He had one effort that died with the wind marked on the goal line by Giddy (who had passed the ball to Matty) that Giddy converted. We are constantly on the look out for examples of selflessness and team-oriented actions and I am proud to have seen overwhelming encouragement from Matty G’s team mates as they calmed him and provided encouragement to him as he searched for his first goal of the season. Well done boys.
Matty C had a very good third term (he was good all day really). He put his body on the line play after play – and spoilt, and cleared room for team mates, chased and worked the ball forward. Matt, we don’t miss the work you do, there are a tonne of one percenters that set up your team mates. Keep up the great work.
Jake S was having a ripper of a third term kicking his second goal after roving in the goal square and putting the ball straight through the middle. Jake is a real work horse and I’m please he got some reward today.
One of the highlights for the quarter was provided by Harry W. Harry out sprinted three opponents on the coach’s side wing, took five bounces and pumped the ball into our forward line in a sublime piece of brilliance. I was tempted to say an individual highlight, but the reality is it was a team highlight, Harry was ably assisted by a number of shepherds by his team mates, including a bone crushing shepherd put on by Max (thankfully the Bentleigh lad was only shaken up!).
We held a 9 goal lead as we headed into the last quarter and had all the momentum so we asked the boys to concentrate on selflessness – help your team mates – and structure, don’t all get sucked to the ball. The wind was really tough to deal with and the boys did their best in a congested forward line. We did straighten up and held a better forward structure compared to the second term, but it was a battle to score.
We kicked two goals –Giddy marked and kicked long to the hot spot where Harry W roved and snapped successfully. Our last goal was scored by Harry B to cap off another fantastic game – Harry really put his body on the line and he continues to do a lot of unrewarded work which is becoming a hallmark of his game.
Thomas approached me at three quarter time and requested to play forward – not because he wanted to kick a goal, but because he wanted to do all he could to help Robbie kick his first goal for the Rovers. Perfect attitude Thomas, you’re a pleasure to coach, always team focused.
A great team effort today. We need to ensure we maintain our momentum. This starts at training on Thursday. See you all there. Don’t forget to touch your football 100 times each day!
Damo, Chris and Rod
Hampton Rovers – Best Mates