The weather picked up today after last week’s bitter cold. Today was always going to be a great test of just how far we have come this season. Away, up against East Brighton Vampires who were sitting just above us on the ladder and had not lost a game post the re-grading. It was an engrossing game and I must admit I was so caught up in the game I didn’t take my usual notes, so excuse any inaccuracies around timing of events or licence I take with what actually happened (he who controls the pen controls history)!!
A special day today for Bailey Stewart who played his 50th game. Congratulations Bailey – today should be a day you remember for a long time – you played a terrific game, scoring two goals and you were a very important player for us all day.
Our captains for today were Hugo and Stefan, who both also played some great football today. It is noticeable the extra step each of the boys have had in their stride this year when they’ve been given the honour of captaining the side. I don’t think we have had a captain play a bad game all year. This shows to me how much this honour means to the boys, and how much focus it brings to their game.
To be honest, we got off to a really sluggish start in the first quarter today. The Vampires attacked relentlessly for the first five minutes as we struggled to stay in the contest. The back line held up really well in the first quarter and are the main reason the Vampires were not getting on the scoreboard. Well done Jake F, Zac, Matty C, Matty G, Tobey and Robbie who applied plenty of pressure, stuck to their men and repelled the Vampires.
Thankfully the more the quarter wore on the more our boys got into the game and in fact we started to dominate possession late in the quarter. It was a really hard fought quarter in the end with both sides unable to score a major and the Vampires holding the advantage by one point at quarter time. Our midfield really started to get on top in the back half of the quarter through Giddy, Harry B, Oscar, Thomas and Jake S all running really hard and Charlton contesting the ruck against a very good opponent.
The first term highlight for me was Oscar chasing an opponent down the wing and catching him in front of the opposition clubrooms, bringing him down and getting awarded the free kick. This was against the play and there is no better place to deflate the opposition than performing an act like this in front of their changerooms and supporters!
Hugo was also off to an impressive start with a number of handpasses at half forward, but perhaps more importantly he was applying enormous forward line pressure on the Vampires every time they tried to run the ball out of our forward line.
The second quarter continued much the same as the first – a very tight, hard fought affair. The Vampires caught us whilst we were rotating players and found ourselves short in the backline to kick the first goal of the game.
One highlight for Rovers was the goal we scored. It started in the middle of the ground at the re-start with Matty G getting a free kick. He passed the ball sideways to Ollie who was on his own. Ollie passed the ball to Harry B who took off and handpassed the ball to Matty G who had run forward. Matty handpassed the ball to Zac who kicked deep into our forward line. Bailey S got on the end of it and kicked the goal. This was a great team goal boys, well done. Good signs with the boys running in numbers.
The Vampires were able to get a second goal as our back half lost some discipline in tightly manning the opposition when we didn’t have the ball. We welcomed Ollie back today and he was straight in to the play and making an impression, however, this came to a brief halt early in the second quarter when he hit his head and had to come off the ground. Thankfully he passed the concussion test and was all set to return from the start of the third quarter.
The boys were really putting their bodies on the line against some big opposition today. Max was making his presence felt down back and burst forward a number of times. Hugo had moved to back line and was continuing to lead from the front, applying his high pressure game down back. We almost scored a second goal when Niko took a fantastic contested mark about 25 metres out, straight in front. He went back calmly, lined himself up only for his shot to be touched on the line. It was a terrific mark Niko, great body work and something we hope to see some more of in the coming weeks.
Bailey S was up and about in his 50th, on the wing this quarter and really pushed up and down the ground. Wes was running hard on the other wing and impacting the game, doing a lot of hard, one percent type work.
So we went into half time 7 points down in what was developing into a really high class match. We asked the boys to continue to run hard, but to be more accountable when we didn’t have the ball. Unfortunately, this didn’t really sink in during the third quarter where the Vampires did a lot of the attacking and hurt us on the scoreboard.
Stefan was giving us all he had in the ruck and Giddy was keeping us in it through the middle of the ground. He took a very strong overhead pack mark at half back which I couldn’t believe he’d plucked, but honestly I shouldn’t be surprised he did. Zac was also on the ball and providing plenty of drive and run, continuing his first class form of late. Jake S was on the wing and also continuing his great run of form, providing plenty of run between the arcs.
Tobey took a strong overhead mark in the back line during the third quarter and proceeded to kick a low piercing pass to a team mate in the centre square. Toby played a really tight game all day and showed us what accountability means. Ollie was providing a reminder of just how much we have missed him over the past two games with lots of run and creativity off half back – I get a lot joy watching Ollie read the play, he seems to know where the ball is going before his opponent every time the ball comes in his direction.
Harry B was over his illness from last week and was having a blinder. After we’d conceded 2 consecutive goals, Harry was able to manufacture one late in the quarter with a cheeky outside of the foot kick along the ground to keep us in it.
So it all came down the last quarter – we were 15 points down and the Vampires had the momentum. However, we know we are capable of running hard and hitting the scoreboard in the last. This is exactly what we asked of the boys at three quarter time, we also asked the boys to man up and make sure they all had a player when we didn’t have possession of the ball.
I am pleased to say the boys took all of this on board. The belief they are building in themselves to run out games is really impressive and will be very important over the coming rounds as we take on some of the top sides.
We attacked early in the quarter and looked like we were a chance of an early goal when Matty G attacked the ball in the hot spot, wheeled around to the right and tried to straighten up with a couple of opponents hanging off him. Unfortunately, his kick was off line but the boys were controlling the ball and looking very dangerous, the momentum had swung in our favour.
James got a free kick for a push in a marking contest, about 25 metres out from goal. Unfortunately, he didn’t hit it sweetly enough to register a major. James was looking very threatening all day each time the ball came near him in the air and has become a genuine avenue to goal. Bailey M was constantly around the fall of the ball during the last quarter, unlucky not to get a scoring opportunity.
The backline were tight in the last. Every time I looked across they were standing their men – goal side, just like we’d talked about. Matty C had a very good game at centre half back, he sunk his boot into the ball every time he got it and cleared the ball from dangerous areas. Unfortunately for the Vampires one of their boys felt the full brunt of one of Matt’s booming clearance kicks and had to go off – we hope he recovers well. I referred to Jake F as the general of the backline today and he was that, directing the kickouts, playing his man tightly and helping keep his team mates accountable.
Ollie also continued his stellar form in the last quarter from half back and continually cut the ball off before the Vampires could push deep. Zac was another who’s game continued to shine in the last. At one point Zac collected a contested ball just in front of our coach’s box, tucked the ball under his arm, and turned on the afterburners. He blew away his direct opponent, out ran a number of others, took a bounce and pumped the ball up the wing where he found perfect “touch” as the ball bounced out and out of the reach of the opposition. This was a 50 metre play at a very important time.
After pushing hard through the quarter, led by the midfield of Charlton, Giddy, Oscar, Harry B, Zac and Wes we finally found a cluster of goals. Bailey S got us started from close to the goal square to cap off a very impressive 50th game, Harry B followed up by sharking the ball before steadying and putting it straight through the middle. At this point we were still down and the clock was ticking down.
Will had been a little quiet today by his standards and the ball wasn’t really bouncing his way. However, he stuck at it and had a very good last quarter where everything changed, all of a sudden the ball was bouncing his way. Will’s effort had been good but things were clicking and this is a great example of what can happen when you just stick at the task at hand. Sometimes one moment in the game can be the difference between winning and losing. Today Will found some creativity late and managed to kick our final goal to put us in front.
Likewise, it is not about the amount of possessions each of the boys get, but what is more important they do as they are asked to play their part in team structure. I really liked Robbie’s game today, not a high possession game but his accountability and the urgency he showed today in response to what had been asked of him was first class. Well done Robbie, we need you to keep this up.
The Vampires pressed on though in one final surge forward. Tobey collected the ball with three opponents around him, stopped on a five cent piece and turned 180 degrees, turning his opponents inside out and cleared the ball.
The final moments were ticking away but the Vampires refused to give up. They had one final entry into their forward line with a high kick in. As I followed the ball I could only see Vampire bodies where the ball was going to land – this didn’t look good and I though we were going to see a repeat of the end of the Kangaroos game last night. However, then a flash from the side sprinted desperately into the picture. Oscar appeared out of no where and he had one of the most determined looks I have seen on his face.
Oscar jumped and thumped (not just spoiled) the ball forward. At this point he had every right to catch his breath and let one of his team mates mop the ball up, however, the ball was going straight to one of the Vampire boys and Oscar was having none of it. He landed like a cat and took off after the ball and put anther massive tackle on, wrapping his opponent up and giving his opponent no chance of disposing of the ball. There has a lot of good play today, but this was the play of the day for me.
Then we heard the siren. Rovers victors by 5 points. What a game! What an exciting finish!
Another incredibly strong finish by the boys with everyone contributing to a stirring win.
Some room for improvement – mostly around our accountability for four quarters.
No game next week but we will still see you Thursday for those who are around. Most likely only an hour session (please take note parents!). Don’t forget to touch your football 100 times each day!
Damo, Chris and Rod
Hampton Rovers – Best Mates