Rovers 2-7-19 to East Malvern 2-1-13
Goals: Hikima (1), Brown (1)
The game against EM was pitched as an opportunity for the lads, an opportunity to redefine our season in terms of what we might be able to achieve. We were fresh off a solid win in our previous game but we were coming up against the top of the ladder with only one loss for the total 9 round season. A team that we faced and got well beaten against in our first game of the season, so for the coaches it was an opportunity to gauge the level of improvement that may or may not have occurred throughout the course of the season. We were hopeful the wintery conditions would favour the rovers strengths at ground level, and make it harder for EM to exert their aerial domination that we had come to expect. This would only manifest if the rovers bought along their trade mark DNA (contested footy, work rate and pressure on the opposition). It was clear from the opening bounce that the boys were in for the contest, and seemed to dominate general play for much of the quarter. We had it locked in our half but EM were proving effective in closing down our time and space as we had limited genuine scoring opportunities, until we were finally able to register a long goal from a composed kick from 40m. We came in at ¼ time feeling like the boys had set the tone for the game, albeit feeling like we may have needed an extra goal or 2 with the opposition about to have the wind advantage.
The boys engaged in an arm wrestle in the second quarter and we were perhaps unlucky not to notch up a couple of goals against the breeze. The backmen were playing to instruction being goalside of their opponent, and our midfielders worked hard at ground level with moments of inspiration taken from the early phase of the world cup. Whilst not to instruction, the lads adapted to the wet ground conditions and forced the ball forward effort after effort. Towards the end of the quarter EM started getting some quick ball movement, and found their leading targets into space. Whilst we were pleased that our backmen were at least able to force them wide, they eventually converted from a set shot closing the scoreboard gap coming into half time.
EM clearly lifted another gear after the long break, and in combination with just a slight drop off in our pressure and work rate, this saw EM move the ball with great effect into their forward half. The rovers defending remained resolute, but when they manufactured a goal from the pocket when we seemed to do everything right defensively, an uneasy feeling came over the coaches that perhaps a game that we had dominated was about to slip our grasp. When goals for the game were like gold, one against the wind really hurt what we had worked so hard for throughout the game. We had some late chances in the quarter, but felt content that we had at least managed to bring the scoreboard back to level at ¾ time.
What was to transpire in the final quarter of the game ended up being one of the proudest efforts I’ve witnessed as a junior coach. With a herculean effort required against the wind to prevent the ball being locked in the back half, we had to keep forcing the ball forward at every opportunity. We gave no clean possession to the EM players, and continued to work hard and play smart defensively using the boundary line to great effect. The ball movement from our back half was outstanding under pressure, and every time the ball returned via an EM a long bomb with the wind our defenders continued to place themselves in the right positions with great support from each other. We seemed the most likely team to score, but when 13 min was gone, and the ball was down the wrong end of the ground, a draw was seemingly the best result. But with one last foray forward, some important marks and ground ball contests, this led to an opportunistic snap at goal. We just pleaded for at least a point, but when it sailed through the big sticks shear elation was felt by the Boss James faithful. With a minute on the clock to wind down, the boys played with composure forcing a stoppage, and then a wide ball towards the boundary. And with the final siren came an emotional response and reflection upon a game that we want the playing group to forever remember. Grinding out a win like that against a very good opponent, we look forward to what may lay ahead for our improving rovers squad.
Another game where we had the whole team contributing, with a special mention that must go to those who played a part in the back six
- Maxie leading the way in the back six playing smart and showing great judgement in the air against a very good opponent
- D-man winning some clean footy under pressure deep in the back half
- Nico working hard from one end of the ground to the other, reading the long ball entries and presenting the right spots
- Louis not giving his opponent an inch and winning several important contests in the air
- Paddy’s forward pressure in the first half adapting to the defence winning several important contests
- Jenson and Jake T with their contesting, intercept work and clean kicking to advantage
- Kento for his strength around the ball at ground level, and composure to always use the ball to his teams advantage
- Jules continuing to enjoy his run in the midfield once again leading the way with his pressure acts
- Lachie leading well across the ground showing clean skills in the wet conditions
- Kyle with his persistence and work rate gaining invaluable distance with a combined afl/soccer style performance
- Arch leading by example with his strong kicking throughout the game, and pivotal contested mark late the game
- Maso playing the 7th defender role to perfection against the breeze, and had late cameo forward that had a hand in the match winning goal
- Lucas leading well and for competing fiercely in the air and at ground level winning some important footy
- Elliot “cometh the cometh the hour”, with the late clutch goal when opportunity presented, and followed up by nullifying the next stoppage
- Kai once again getting to contest after contest winning his share of ball an applying the harassment that justifies his nickname
- Alex for yet another lion hearted 100% game time in the ruck, including competing really well around the ground and getting the better of a good opponent
- Jake G really giving his team a lift in the forward half in the last quarter with his marking and long kicking
- Josh B for competing fiercely in the clinches not allowing the ball to easily come out of our deep forward area
- Matteo for his brief appearance on the ground sustaining an injury chasing the ball with great intent when competing 1 v 2
Things we did well
- adapted to the conditions, played to our strengths and not the oppositions
- set the tone of the game early, and seemed to cause the EM players to fumble under perceived pressure that we were able to exploit throughout the game
- defensively the team really stood up, and played to instruction in terms of fisting, body on body contests and being goal side of our opponent – to keep the top of the ladder team to 3 scoring shots for the game was simply outstanding
Room for Improvement (RFI’s)
- Striking when the iron is hot, in terms of damage on the scoreboard – 1st q domination we need to find a way to score another couple of goals