Back at home for only the second time this season and looking to return to the winner’s circle after last week’s loss, the Hampton Rovers Chameleons were up against the inform and very athletic looking Murrumbeena Lionesses.
Under the captaincy of Madeline Miles, the Rovers strode confidently into position for the first quarter, having soaked up Super Coach Josh’s pre-match words of wisdom and encouragement that this week focused on the Rovers exit plays after conceding behinds.
The Rovers began strongly as Sienna Block went about setting the gold standard for the midfield sweeping role. Lily McEniry was dominating the ruck contests and Lola Davis sent an early message to the opposition that if they took the ball into contact, they were going to come off second best.
Jessica Hart went on a great run in the back pocket, but took just the one step too far before getting her kick away and Tess Ilcyzynski was also industrious up front. However, all the early endeavour came to nothing, as an impressive Murrumbeena went from their own goal line to scoring a behind with 3 long kicks.
After the restart Matilda Brown got a handball away under pressure, Abbey Hickey came under friendly fire in midfield and Lily Jones sent the ball into forward line on 3 occasions, late in what felt like the longest quarter of all time.
During the break Josh applauded the first quarter display, labelling it their best of the season.
Play resumed with Nadia Stockwell linking up with Matilda Clarkson. Jessica Hart capitalised on 3 possessions in quick succession as the Rovers much improved skills with the ball on the ground. Emma Bloom found rover Olive Tuppen via a handball as they moved onto attack. Sienna Block then won a free kick which she used to centre the play, with Vivienne Buckley, Lily McEniry, Lola Davis and Julie Moss all vying for a mark. Soon after though, it was Sienna herself who deservedly scored the first Rovers big one of the day.
As she followed this up with a second classy goal, Murrumbeena could have been forgiven for thinking there were two of her on the ground, such was the frequency of impact she was.
An injury to Nadia Stockwell somewhat disrupted the Hampton momentum and the Lionesses soon returned fire with 2 quick goals and a behind of their own to reclaim the lead heading into half time.
Amongst other things, Josh reminded the girls to use the flanks to find space and get the ball up the field faster, to be patient with the ball in hand and selfish when in a goal scoring opposition – he knew the way they were playing they had a chance to upset a much more experienced team.
On defence, Matilda Clarkson and Sienna Block both effected steals early in the 2nd half. Midfield dynamos Lola Davis, Matilda Brown, Juliet Moss, Lily McEniry and Madeline Miles worked tirelessly and often without luck as the Rovers forward line of Bianca Stewart, Abbey Hickey, Emma Bloom, Nadia Stockwell and Tess Ilcyzynski screamed for the ball like Banshees.
It was Murrumbeena though who spent much of the quarter hot on attack but the likes of Lily Jones Zoe Hewett and Vivienne Buckley did extremely well to limit the scoring to just one goal and a handful of behinds.
Still behind heading into the 4th quarter Josh told the Rovers to fire up and get physical with the larger Lionesses squad – it was now or never.
Abbey Hickey won a hit out, delivering possession to Matilda Clarkson and then in a passage that looked like it came straight from the MCG, Madeline Miles took a mark, put on a mark for Olive Tuppen who immediately returned the favour before the former iced the cake with the sweetest of goals.
The Murrumbeena players and fans look rattled, clearly used to getting it all their own way this season. Sensing the opportunity as play resumed, Bianca Stewart sent the ball up the right flank to Madeline Miles, who made it back to back goals and send the Lionesses to the ropes.
This seemed to inspire the Rovers, particularly on defence as Matilda Clarkson outmuscled a player twice her size.
Then, as the clock ticked down, Nadia Stockwell took a great mark in the backfield sweeping role and the Rovers look set to hang on for an against the odds win. Unfortunately, despite finding space with the clearing kick, the opposition were first to the ball and that’s the only opportunity they needed to score a pressure goal in the dying stages.
Coinciding with the final siren, a vocal and tight knit procession from the local Church shuffled their way down Ludstone St. However, it seemed to me it was the Rovers own faithful who had the greater looks of reverence on their faces after witnessing a team performance that had so much to like about it, even if the win ultimately eluded them.
Choosing this week’s award winners must have been especially tough and they went to Emma Bloom, Lola Davis, Matilda Clarkson and Sienna Block who all played key roles.
What a great game it was and I’m sure it won’t be long before the team song echoes round the change room again.
Your reporter at large
Grant (Nadia’s Dad)
P.S. Following my report for the game vs East Malvern, I’ve had a few enquiries from parents not present if there was any footage of the first quarter incident involving the Rovers’ Goal Umpire, Nick Tuppen (who occasionally goes by the name of Steve Stevens). After a bit of digging I came across this short video – apologies for the poor quality: