On a warm Autumn morning, spread across a boutique sized ground, Rovers Blue went to battle with the Malvern East Knights in round 4 action.
I’ll start with my apologies if I misattribute any of the player contributions in what follows but the frenetic pace of the game, the close confines of the field and my failing eyes made keeping up with who was in possession more challenging than usual.
Anyway, here goes nothing.
Before the game Super Coach Josh, encouraged the girls to feel confident, back their abilities and, on account of having no interchange, support each other throughout the game. Abbey Hickey, one of the best from last week, was named captain and would lead the team from midfield in the first quarter.
The game started with 3 smart handballs from the Rovers as the ball got stuck in midfield for a period. Lily McEniry made an effective touch which debutante Olive Tuppen, back from promoting the game in Europe, followed up with a kick into the forward line where the footy again lingered but did not translate into Rovers points.
Despite having this run of play early and busy defensive pressure from the likes of Lily Jones, it was the opposition who troubled the scorers first with a well taken goal. The Rovers would play from behind this week.
Sienna Block, who looked like she meant business from the outset, got 2 quick possessions and won a free kick. In the forward line Nadia Stockwell showed some nifty footwork and pace with two possessions either side of a Lola Davis bomb. It was around this time the Rovers Goal Umpire, Nick, took what looked like a nasty tumble but ultimately proved more painful to his pride than his body. Thankfully Olive restored pride to the family name soon after with a handball of such high quality it had some in the crowd wondering if good coordination had skipped a generation in the Tuppen household.
Matilda Clarkson started to make her presence felt, earning a free that she turned into a long kick. A highly motivated Bianca Stewart along with Lola Davis and Nadia Stockwell, then kicked a trio of behinds to round out the quarter, with the Rovers leading in all areas except for the scoreboard.
Josh used the intermission to ask the girls to dive on anything on the ground and to lock it in the forward line. At the restart Lily McEniry won her first of many possessions in this quarter, enabling Matilda Clarkson to kick a fourth Rovers behind in a row, then going one better and nailing a long range goal. In midfield Lily Jones made a great kick to a mark before a Matilda Clarkson, Ava O’Keefe, Olive Tuppen 1-2-3, which saw the later score her first goal of the season and completely erase the painful memories of her father’s first quarter incident.
Another wave of attack from the Rovers saw Matilda Clarkson unselfishly serve the ball to Bianca Stewart who calmly slotted another Rovers goal to extend the lead just before half time. It’s been said you get what you celebrate and Josh challenged the team to make sure they did just this after each goal, declaring the second quarter the best of season to date. But like all great coaches, he demanded more of his squad in the second half, that they get in front of the opposition more in defence and be ruthless in front of goal whenever they got the chance.
Upon the resumption of play debutant Evie Hall started to shine with a pin point kick to a mark in the forward line. Not long after, in what was a refreshing display of candidness in stark contrast to the swagger and bravado of the modern game, midfielder Lola Davis was heard to say “I don’t know what I’m doing”. Coming off the back of a run during which she broke 3 tackles I’m not sure the opposition saw it that way, even if she did follow it up with a slightly misdirected kick. Matilda Brown, who was a defensive giant throughout the game, ironed out a couple of Knights players then Juliet Moss launched the first of two third quarter shots at goal that narrowly missed registering points. However, the Rovers were not to be denied with Sienna Block presently kicking a great goal from an acute angle.
As play continued, Emma Bloom in midfield, scrapped it out to secure possession, get the ball to Matilda Clarkson and then win the ball back again after it had subsequently been turned over. Nadia Stockwell got an important touch that ended up with Matilda Clarkson who, after a big ‘don’t argue’ on her marker, slotted her second goal for the game.
“Copy her” said coach Josh at the final break. “And double the intensity on defence while you are at it.”
With the clock back on midfielder Ava O’Keefe made a number of on and off the ball contributions and in the backfield sweeping role Nadia Stockwell took a good mark. However, when the clearing kick ended up in Malvern hands, she was unable to get back into position in time to deny the opposition a goal. After getting started again for the last time, Abbey Hickey sent the ball deep into the forward line where an elusive Sienna Block secured possession. Next up was Evie Hall who kicked the last goal of the game.
The Rovers finished the game on defence with the sort of intensity Josh had described only minutes earlier.
So ended a game in which every player lent a huge contribution, no matter what position they found themselves in, making the selection of award winners, Olive Tuppen, Evie Hall, Matilda Brown and Abbey Hickey, all the harder but no less deserved.
Thanks for reading.
Your reporter at large.
Grant Stockwell [Nadia’s Dad]
Editor: Here’s Sally Stewart’s video of Bianca kicking a goal…!