The final round of the home and away season today was played away against St Pauls McKinnon. Unfortunately, we were missing two valuable players with injury – Oscar and Matty C. We expect both to recover in time for next week’s big semi-final. Recover well boys! Oh, and thanks for your assistance today in running the boards and providing some great insight into some areas we weren’t as strong as we could have been in the first half – you’ve both got some coaching nous. et’s get you back to playing first though!
It was Harry W’s 50th game today – congratulations Harry! He and Ollie were our captains and led from the front all day. Well played to both boys. Today was an opportunity to once again throw the board around and give opportunity to some of the boys to play up forward and on the ball. This meant that some of our forwards and onballers found themselves in unfamiliar territory. Congratulations to all of you – you stuck at the task and applied yourselves, settling into unfamiliar positions the more the game progressed.
Whether the positioning the boys found themselves in early contributed to a very slow start, or whether it is the continuation of a trend that has appeared over the past three weeks, I’m not sure, but St Pauls had come to play – they had a couple of onballers who were very influential in driving St Pauls forward attack after attack. They got the first goal on the board and we knew we were in for a battle.
Harry W was keeping us in the game early and his shot half way through the first quarter was unlucky to slide across the face of goal, caught up in the wind. James and Niko were settling into life down back – Niko was Mr Accountability, whilst James ventured forward using his run and provided options for his team mates.
Jake F was ever reliable on the full back line, whilst Wes was everywhere early working off the forward flank and back up the wing. Giddy and Harry B were getting plenty of the ball off half back and played a big part in steadying the ship after we got off to a slow start. Thomas and Tobey were also getting possessions out on the wing, Tobey on the end of some nice link play down the coach’s side wing.
Max worked into the game, playing on the ball, along with Ollie who was off to a good start. The forward line was congested but Robbie and Stefan were working hard from the goal square, Will M was his elusive self (without much room to move).
At quarter time we were behind, having not scored a goal – but only down by that margin.
With Jake F on rotation, Max went back to full back to keep control and was terrific, steaming out of defence with the ball tucked under his arm. Hugo went back to assist in what was a very good game by today by him. He did a lot of man marking on one of the dangerous big boys St Pauls had and made a significant impact in stiffening our defence up. Bailey S used his strength out of the packs, punching out handballs as he often does, while Zac, Thomas and Charlton were very good across half back.
Matty G, Wes, Giddy and Harry B were slowly getting on top in the middle against some fine opposition, whilst Ollie was playing some smart footy on the wing, playing one kick back, defensive side of the pack. We finally got our first goal when Giddy applied discipline to a checkside kick and put it in the hot spot from the boundary which Stefan marked 10 metres out, went back and slotted straight through the middle – congratulations on your first goal for the year Stefan!
St Pauls got one back before half time to go into the break 3 points up. We’d won the quarter courtesy of a string of points we kicked from the dead pocket side. The boys were showing concern about being behind, however, we asked them to stick with it, for everyone to lift just a bit, move the ball quickly and look for your team mate. Oh, also try to stay out of the dead pocket – easier said than done. However, we were confident we could work our way through the challenges in front of us – a great learning opportunity for when things are not going to plan.
The third quarter saw us really start to get on top, although scoring was difficult. We did manage to kick two goals to none to grab the lead for the first time. Our first goal came courtesy of a Harry B rove out of a pack 20 out from goal. Harry had just tried to pass the ball off the Robbie and Matty G rather than take a shot himself; in an attempt to assist his mates in kicking their first goal of the year.
The second goal came from Giddy, who is such a good reader of the play – he saw a kick out going to two unmanned St Pauls players but was quick enough to get into the right spot and intercept mark. Giddy went back and slotted the goal – never in danger of missing!
Niko and Hugo continued to shine off the half back line in the third term, holding up a number of attacks. Bailey M and Tobey were doing the same off the full back line. Zac was impassable and provided lots of running attack.
Stefan was enjoying a run in the ruck in one of his best games of the year, feeding Harry W, Giddy and Ollie at every opportunity. Harry W was having a very good game in his 50th, he didn’t have the same amount of space to run that he often finds, but he did a lot of bullocking work in the packs. Ollie was showing lots of leadership out of the middle and was supported by Wes and Bailey S who was doing some really important work on the wing.
Jake F was a great target at centre half forward, whilst his namesake, Jake S was getting lots of the ball across half forward. Robbie, Will S and Will M were doing their darndest to get amongst the goals, but it was very tough going on the full forward line.
At three quarter time the game was back under control and the boys were focused on helping their team mates get amongst the goals. Max had a great opportunity to kick a goal himself but chose to make an ambitious pass to Robbie on the goal line amongst a sea of players that very nearly came off. Robbie got the ball, turned, took his shot only for it to be smothered by his opponent – so close! Very proud of Max’s team orientation.
Just as proud of Giddy who also had a golden opportunity in front of goal. He held up in search of a way to get the ball to Robbie, Will S or Matty G, but unfortunately St Pauls were awake to the plan and cut all options off. There is only one thing to do in these circumstances and Giddy took the right option at this point – he went back and kicked the goal.
Giddy was once again having a ripping game – what a player he is. He repeated his intercepting effort from a kickout (déjà vu third quarter) before going back, steadying, reading the wind and putting the ball way out right of the goals. We watched with glee as the ball swerved back courtesy of the wind and went straight through the middle. I looked over to see Rod practicing his golf swing – apparently the curve on Giddy’s shot reminds him of his form off the tee! We had lots of contributors in the last quarter, a great team effort. I need to mention Will M – I knew he would be disappointed when I put him down back today, but to his credit he looked at home and was a wonderful rebounding player from half back. I’ll lock that into my memory Will! It’s great to have multiple strings to your bow!
Hugo and Bailey S also capped off wonderfully team-oriented games down back today – they were tight, did as they were asked and sacrificed some glamour up forward to really contribute. Boys, I can assure you it doesn’t go unnoticed.
I thought Will S continued his footballing journey in the right way today – for someone who plays defence in soccer, playing up forward in only your fourth game of aussie rules must be tough. However, what I liked was he listened to the positioning we asked him to take and he got on the end of a number of balls, one in particular he pinned his ears back and pumped it long into our forward line. Always team focused – the Rovers way.
Charlton was also good today, playing all over the field. He is a terrific ruckman, and although he rolls his eyes when I ask him to go down back, he did an excellent job of manning St Pauls power forward who caused us quite a bit of grief in the first half. He is also very versatile and looked dangerous up forward later in the game.
Thomas and Jake S were also instrumental today in playing a part to get us back into the game and forge ahead. These boys go about their work every week in a quiet unassuming manner, their approach towards the game is exemplary.
Congratulations to all the boys and; also, their families on the year so far. We have finished top of the ladder and could not have asked much more from the boys. They have taken some big steps this year in their development – particularly around positional structure. I am really pleased with their team focus – teams win games, not individuals and every week we are seeing boys sacrifice opportunities for glory to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work for their team mates.
The final piece here has been their sportsmanship and the levels of respect they have shown towards umpires and the opposition. We have not had to have any serious talks about this during the year and today’s disappointment towards some early decisions was put behind them very, very quickly.
So, we now look forward to next week. St Peters unexpectedly lost and have slipped to fourth, so we will be playing them. Details to be announced.
See you all at training. Don’t forget to touch your football 100 times each day!
Damo, Chris and Rod (Oscar and Matty C, guest assistants!)
Hampton Rovers – Best Mates