Perfect weather one week, not so good the next! We were greeted this morning with very wet and very cold conditions at McKinnon Reserve. Lots of surface water and lots of shivering kids! We were down to the bare eighteen boys with the last week taking its toll. We are hoping to have James P back next week, but it looks like Matty G’s season may now be over. To add to this, Peter was carrying a sore knee.
On a day like today we were looking for some leaders – players who would put their bodies in and set an example. Max Bogue was given the official responsibility and he applied himself very well. He had a couple of mates in Matt C, Ollie Mc, Thomas and Will who also stood out in really poor conditions.
St Pauls came at us hard, right from the first bounce and the first quarter saw us struggle to get the ball much further than the centre square. We were on the back foot and struggling to deal with the conditions. Matt C showed very early he wasn’t going to be pushed around or beaten and threw himself into everything – his play was also complimented by a first-class overhead mark in conditions when almost no-one was able to mark the ball in the air.
Max was asked to play a kick behind the play but didn’t have much opportunity because the ball was consistently in our defensive 50. Bailey S continued his terrific form of late and has become a valuable and reliable part of our backline – he put his body in the line of the ball and used his clean hands to collect and distribute when others were fumbling a wet ball.
Will S has been a much-improved footballer as the season has gone on. Experience is all Will needs to continue to accumulate to add to his natural athleticism. He has become a valuable utility player and worked very hard down back in the first quarter.
The midfield were trying their best, James C leading the charge and putting his big frame to good use against a side that had more size (and used it) than we were accustomed to. Ollie Mc was working his butt off and was well on his way to winning the dirtiest player (wet and muddy, Ollie is a 150% ball player) award. Thomas was his ever-reliable self and willed himself to as many contests as he physically could. Ollie F was working hard on the wing, as was Jack Mc, we just couldn’t get these boys out in the clear often enough.
I felt for the forward line who didn’t see the ball at all in the first quarter. Jack W moved himself up onto the wing as a link player and almost got us going, getting his hands on the ball a couple of times and pushing us further forward as we tried to break the half-way line. We conceded two goals as St Paul’s used their height, size and skill to attack relentlessly and hit the scoreboard.
At quarter time we asked the boys to take an extra step forward in pushing themselves to get to the ball first, move it on quickly and kick long into space. To out-run the opposition and keep moving – if nothing else then to keep themselves warm.
St Paul’s were unrelenting though and they continued to push forward with great intent. They played with good discipline to their game plan and worked a nice structure to provide options moving forward. Jake went down back to help out and Will moved up to a wing to try and get us going. Bailey S continued his good start, and Mitch was doing all he could to hold the opposition out. Mitch follows instruction to a tee and was very accountable all game. Max was busting a boiler, as was Matt C and if not for these two we would surely have conceded more goals.
Thomas, Ollie, Jack Mc, Ollie F and James continued to work as hard as they could but just like the first quarter, we couldn’t find any space. Sidney was starting to work his way into the game now but we were struggling to make inroads towards our forward line. Stef moved himself up the ground and got involved in the play a couple of times – he challenged Ollie Mc for the dirtiest player when he was bumped over right in the middle of the sticky, muddy centre turf area!
At half time the game was getting away from us. We implored the boys to dig deep and find something to challenge St Pauls with, to wrestle some momentum and try to win the quarter. Sidney was challenged to get deeper into the game and demonstrate just how super competitive he is. Well Sidney responded and was terrific in the third quarter. He got right into the thick of it and showed us just why he has been an outstanding player all year. He was on the bottom of plenty of packs, but unfortunately took a head knock late in the quarter which finished his game.
We were slowly evening out the balance of the game, but we were breaking down by the time we got to half forward. McKinnon Reserve is a big ground, and without a bench there was no rest and the onballers were starting to struggle to cover the ground. James C had competed very hard, and had rucked almost all game and moved up forward half-way through the third quarter. Niko was given an opportunity and he grabbed it with both hands. Niko won his first ruck contest and was right in the play, laying tackles and picking up possessions.
Max was playing a sweeping role one kick off the play as we moved the ball, Ollie Mc was at the bottom of every pack and frustrating his opponent with his possession count, Geordie moved up forward and started to get into the game, whilst Peter battled on one leg bravely, still managing to get to the contest and compete. Jake, Matt C, Mitch and Bailey worked hard through the backline all quarter. These boys ran down a number of attacking moves and stood up against enormous pressure.
We conceded two goals in a much better third quarter and we asked the boys to forget the scoreboard in the last quarter, continue to push themselves and impose themselves on the game and see it they couldn’t finish with the momentum to take into next week.
Right from the first bounce we lifted our work-rate and pushed immediately into our forward line. We started to create waves of attacks driven by Niko in the ruck, Max, Ollie, Thomas, Jack Mc and Ollie F. Jack W moved up to the wing and looked lively – I was really happy with Jack’s endeavour today, he got his hands on the ball quite a bit and used his body to create some space for himself inside the pack.
Will ran out the game superbly on the wing and Geordie presented himself up in the forward line a number of times, taking a couple of marks and looking like our most dangerous forward for the day. James B was getting to the fall of the ball and picked up a number of possessions and put on a number of tackles before coming off after he copped a whack in the ear.
We were down to 16 players but we were dominating the quarter. Geordie had a shot at goal but didn’t make the distance, after St Pauls tried to clear their kick out, Niko got on the end of the ball, passed to Ollie Mc, who passed to Geordie in the far pocket. Geordie assessed his options well and passed to Will who took a strong overhead mark under pressure only 15 metres out directly in front. This was our best piece of football all day, precision kicking and marking – more akin to dry weather football.
Unfortunately Will missed, but once St Paul’s took the kick out we got the ball back in deep and Max used his strength to pick up the ball, push off an opponent, and snap a goal over his left shoulder with a St Paul’s defender hanging off him. Great reward for the hard work the boys were putting in. We were winning plenty of the ball and dominating general play and frustrating our opposition. The quarter ended up a goal each, but we are very pleased and proud of how the boys finished off the game.
St Paul’s are a very good side and had a nice big bench. We took them on with 17 fit and one half fit player, no bench on a big ground on an energy sapping wet day. Tough day at the office. We never gave up and we fought it out to the very end which is great going into next week.
Looks like we have held onto fourth spot, so next week is a very important game. So, get to training, we need a big focused week on the track in preparation for our biggest game of the year (yet again!).
Let’s keep enjoying our footy and the company of our mates.
Hampton Rovers – Best Mates!
BTW – Boys make sure you touch your football 100 times each day!!