By RUSSELL BENNETT
THERE’S an old saying in footy – good teams just find a way to win. It’s often not pretty, but when the game is in the balance, the players most willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work at the ones walking to the sheds at the final siren with smiles from ear to ear.
Gippsland’s win over Sandringham in the TAC Cup on Saturday definitely was anything but pretty. But the hard-fought slog-fest in windy conditions at Preston City Oval ultimately saw the cream rise to the top with last year’s grand finalists coming away with a 20-point win, 9.16 (70) to 7.8 (50).
The Power was favoured by a heavy breeze kicking to the city end in the first term, and locked the ball inside forward 50 for much of the quarter.
But despite the promising early play of key forward Josh Scott and first-gamer Doug Grining, the side led by just 16 points at the first change.
Power coach Nick Stevens urged his young charges to be accountable in their play in the remaining three quarters and to make the most of their chances, knowing two of those terms would be kicking into what seemed a three-to-four goal win.
A brilliant centre clearance from Garfield youngster Eddie Morris set the tone for the Power’s local brigade in the second term, with Ellinbank’s Nate Paredes and Warragul’s Tom Muir also stepping their games up a notch.
Muir was inspirational – taking to the field on the day of his grandfather’s passing. He played a disciplined game in defence, holding down key posts against quality opposition.
But Dragons Matt Zagni, Tom McGowan, Taylor Grace, Nathan Smith and local product James Munro were looming large and made a better fist of the breeze to close out the half six points in front, 5.3 (33) to 3.9 (27).
However, it was the Power that came out breathing fire in the third term – piling on six unanswered goals, thanks to the relentless midfield work of Aaron Heppell and Lukas Webb, and the forward line dominance of Josh Scott (five goals).
The Gippsland outfit maintained its focus on the defensive end, too – giving up just one behind for the term.
With the wind swirling in the final term and not providing any real advantage to either side, the Power just had to maintain its three-quarter-time buffer.
Gippsland was kept goal-less in the final term, but the side’s defence stood strong – holding the Dragons to just two majors and as the Power went on to record a 20-point win.