A late game saw us heading out to Wheelers Hill to take on Waverley Park Hawks. Luckily the forecast hail never arrived, but the boys were not spared from constant wind blowing across the ground into the left forward pocket that made going tough. Waverley have some very good form of late, so this was set up to be another big test for the boys.
Jake F and Zac played their 50th games today and took the responsibility of being captains for the day. They won the toss and decided to kick into the wind! Interesting choice, but perhaps they were thinking of coming home with the wind in the last quarter? That’s what I’m putting it down to and good decision in hindsight!
The boys seemed a little sleepy at the start of the first quarter and Waverley pressed hard in the opening minutes. The pressure the Hawks applied culminated in the first goal of the match to them – game on! This goal seemed to bring our boys to attention though. We were dour in our defence against a very strong wind for the balance of the quarter. The backline was tight – Zac and Jake F were off to great starts in their milestone game, Will Smith looked like a 50 gamer in just his second game, Tobey worked through the shivers that plagued him for the game and stuck to his man like glue. Whilst Matty G showed some great reach and got his fist on a couple of big spoils.
Robbie had a great start to the game, putting his body on the line, never giving up the chase and feeding handpasses out to team mates from the bottom of the pack. The midfield got on top from the second centre bounce with Charlton, Harry W, Giddy and Thomas, and then Harry B and Oscar putting in some hard running. Hugo and Jake S were working very hard on the wings, paying particular attention to the defensive side of their game.
Up forward Wes was running riot on the flank and our tall timber were all making their presence felt. James was like a young colt let loose out in the paddock, whilst Niko was providing some great body work, nearly pulling down a terrific mark. Stefan covered a lot of distance and was getting possessions all the way down to half back. This would be trend of the game for these three who were all important contributors.
So, after a slow start the boys really battled against a 2-3 goal wind and pulled a goal back late when Wes drove the ball in deep and James lost his opponent, doubled back, took a mark in the hot spot. He then side stepped his opponent again and ran in and drove home a great goal. All tied up at quarter time, one goal apiece.
With 24 boys in the team today there were a lot of rotations through the game. The second quarter saw us dominate possession, but we were often found attacking through the dead pocket the wind was blowing into. The boys understandably found it very difficult to score goals from this spot. For all the ball we had we were only able to return two goals, both nice pieces of work from firstly Harry B and then Giddy. The backline didn’t have a lot to do as the ball didn’t really make it down there.
Niko continued to get his hands on the ball up forward, as did Bailey M who was all set to snap a goal in his third successive game, only to be thwarted by a late desperate tackle by an opposition player. Bailey S was doing some heavy work in the packs, tackling and stealing the ball off his opponent before firing out a handball to a team mate.
Both the Wills shone. Will M reached into his bag of tricks and looked dangerous every time he went near the ball – if not for the wind, I’m sure he would have kicked 2 or three goals for the term, whilst Will S went forward and was really disciplined holding his position 20-30 metres out from goal.
The centre line dominated. Matty G relieved Charlton in the ruck and continued to hit everything our way. Harry W, Giddy and Harry B were everywhere and looking dangerous. We had enormous run off the wings with Zac and Ollie putting their skills on display.
Whilst it was quiet up back, Matty C found himself up the ground and used his strength to great affect every time the ball came near him. Oscar was terrific off the back flank and Max ran in straight lines creating a path of destruction, as only Max can!
Our defensive efforts prevented Waverley from scoring, so we went into half time a couple of goals up and knowing we would have to defend against the wind again.
The third quarter was a tug of war with both sides determined not to be out done by the other – only one point was scored for the quarter, to the Rovers, which was an amazing effort against the wind. Wes and Zac, and then Ollie played out on the wings and we asked them to play one kick back off the play as part of an extra defensive effort against the wind. The boys played their part brilliantly, continuously marking a quick kick out of a pack and sending it straight back towards our goal.
Stefan played a great quarter in the ruck feeding the onballers who kept up and maybe even lifted their work rate. Charlton went back to centre half back rotated with Matty C – both were fantastic in that position. Jake F and Max held the full back line together and showed real leadership.
So, with no real change to the score we headed into the last quarter. We asked the boys to make a big effort to come through centre half forward as we attacked and avoid the dead pocket. They really listened, and they continued the run they are becoming renowned for, piling on goals as the score started to blow out.
Zac, Matty C and Ollie ensured the ball never really got past the centre line, so our poor full backline had a very quiet (& cold) quarter. The onballers ran forward and started kicking goals. Oscar and Tobey were providing great run on the wings until Tobey rotated off and poor Oscar got slung in a tackle and hurt his head and shoulder. Gutsy stuff Oscar, hope you pull up ok!
Harry W got us going with a goal from the impossible pocket. There aren’t many games when Will M doesn’t hit the score board and this wasn’t going to be one of them. Will converted from a free kick as Oscar was leaving the field. Giddy centred the ball to Charlton who converted nicely. Not long after Harry B centred the ball from the dead pocket and found Jake S who put it straight through the middle.
We all found ourselves cheering for Will S who had a couple of shots at goal, including one monster torpedo that fell a couple of inches short, Niko also bobbed up and just missed out on a goal. With the siren just about to blow, Giddy snapped a ball – well it looked like he almost just put it high into air over the goal square from the dead pocket and then watched the wind take over and sail it through for our final goal of the match.
All in all a very good performance in tough conditions. Once again, it was really pleasing to see the boys sharing the ball with team mates in better positions, the shepherding each week almost needs no prompting now and seems to be a natural part of our game and the effort to use our wrong foot is getting better every week (well done Oscar, Harry B and a couple of others I know I’ve missed).
Team focus will continue to be the mantra we will play by over the coming month and will serve us well come the big games we have ahead. Congratulations boys, you played beautifully but perhaps more importantly the spirit and sportsmanship you displayed was outstanding.
See you at training on Thursday. Don’t forget to touch your football 100 times each day!
Damo, Chris and Rod
Hampton Rovers – Best Mates