The vast and cold expanses of Albert Park were the site for this week’s game versus South Melbourne. This was a team that had lost by a very similar margin to Ormond the week before the Rovers, suggesting an even contest beckoned even if the Hampton ranks had been further decimated by travel, illness and injury.
In a welcome boost to the away team, Kylie Jones’ reassuring presence as Team Manager had been restored, made all the more important as there was a new look combination in the coach’s box endeavouring to turn the Rovers’ fortunes around.
Before the game coaches Tuppen and Moss spoke of the intensity and accuracy needed from the outset. The finished by naming Maddie A, recently back from injury, to lead the team on to a field that had been shortened in such a strange fashion that it was now girthier than long.
Charlotte C set about winning the first tap to signify the start of a clinic in hit outs to advantage that she would put on for the rest of the game. As has become customary, Joely H began accumulating midfield possessions and on defence Skipper Maddie A made an important mark to deny South Melbourne a goal to accompany an early behind.
As the Rovers achieved their first inside 50, Bianca S made a jarring tackle enabling Olive T to get her hands on the ball and kick a great goal while still in contact from the opposition. This was followed by another centre clearance from Charlotte C and score from OIive T and the Rovers were suddenly in front by a behind.
Wanting in on the action Juliet M injected herself into the game, initially with 2 tackles and then to score her own behind, the prelude to a goal soon after.
In the middle of the ground Matilda B tackled hard and Nadia S kicked well to an uncontested mark by Juliet M. Unfortunately for the Rovers that raid did not result in points and late in the quarter South Melbourne snatched back the momentum with two quick goals that could easily have been more but for some desperate defence from Olivia K, Sienna G and Maddie A.
The home side continued to attack in the second quarter and this time it was Zoe H and Bianca S who were called upon to keep them at bay doing well to limit the damage to a levelling behind.
Olive T made a series of tackles after which Lily J got her first possession and sent the ball into the back pocket. From here Joely H centred the play via a mark by Nadia S who unselfishly and unsuccessfully tried to pick out Charlotte C closer to goal when a shot was probably the better option. Alas it mattered not as moments later another probing kick from Lily J found Joely H who played on and slotted a goal.
As play continued Olivia K tackled and locked the ball up on several occasions and Matilda T pick-pocketed the opposition in an amusing passage of play.
However, two quick goals from South Melbourne who were exploiting the Rovers lapses in concentration on defence meant they took the lead into half time.
The coaching staff focused heavily on the Rovers’ disposals during the break, including the apparent obsession with kicking in close confines when handballs were the smarter option, along with ensuring they were marking up on defence.
As South Melbourne resumed their attacking onslaught the Rovers had plenty of opportunities to demonstrate they’d been listening to the coaching staff and it seemed they had as a Zoe H smother, Joely H tackle and Charlotte C spoil stymied the South Melbourne side.
More tackles from Matilda B and Nadia S and a clearing kick from Olive T brought some relief but the home team applied constant inside 50 pressure throughout the quarter.
Eventually, it proved too much and South Melbourne extended their lead to take a two goal lead into last break but not before a classic moment when sisters Olive and Matilda book-ended a South Melbourne player on defence, an experience that younger brother Ned will no doubt become familiar with as he grows older.
Kicking the ball toward the wrong goal did not provide the best start to the final term but with their bearings restored the Rovers finally swung back onto attack thanks to repeat efforts from Joely and Zoe H. Bianca S ended up with the ball inside 50 and did not hesitate to kick the first of the two goals required to make up the deficit which she followed up with the most casual of celebrations.
Maddie A and Juliet M got their running game going and when called upon to defend the Rovers were now tackling in pairs and making repeat efforts, perhaps sensing the opposition were tiring and ready to be run down.
A behind brought them within range and then with all the composure of a professional player, Juliet M took a safe mark from another Joely H assist and from the set shot calmly sent the ball through the posts to hand the Rovers the lead with the final siren nearing.
A nail biting final few minutes ensued during which the South Melbourne team pushed hard for their own winner but brave defence across the paddock including desperate efforts from Maddie A, Olivia K, Zoe H, Charlotte C, Lily J, Nadia S and Matildas T and B, somehow kept them at bay.
As the game finished it was not immediately apparent to the Rovers they’d won but uncertainty soon turned to smiles and cheers, and eventually a team song that almost came as an afterthought.
On the sidelines Olivia K, Juliet M and Zoe H earned access to a freshly replenished Tackle Box while Charlotte C was named player of the day for her dominant ruck work and Olivia K, Juliet M and skipper Maddie A were also recognised.