By Russell Bennett
WEST GIPPSLAND FOOTBALL NETBALL COMPETITION
REVIEW – ROUND 6
Good sides just find ways to win. They don’t need everything on their terms, or all their best players starring – they just find that extra gear when they need it most.
And it’s those wins in the early part of seasons that could prove crucial at the back end as finals draw nearer.
Dean Blake and the boys at Nar Nar Goon would be sensing exactly that – currently sitting at 5-1 in a share of second on the ladder despite enormous room for improvement.
In Cora Lynn and, on Saturday, Phillip Island they’ve already defeated two finals aspirants, and they know the importance banking early wins – particularly with games against Inverloch Kongwak and Kooweerup following this weekend’s interleague break.
In reality, it’s only after the Demons game in Round 8 that the Goon will have a true indicator of how they match up against the two sides in the top three.
For now, the signs are positive – coming away with a 14-point win, 15.3 (93) to 10.19 (79), despite Beau Vernon’s Bulldogs causing some real headaches at Spencer Street on Saturday.
Big man Nick Higginson was enormous, both literally and figuratively, for the visitors – giving his midfield brigade first use. It was at the stoppages that the Island seemed to have the most distinct advantage for large parts of the contest, particularly given some of the Goon’s defensive lapses through the middle, but the home side had a more even spread of contributors overall and the class of the likes of Todd Beck (three goals) and Trent Armour ultimately shone through.
The Goon booted their first 11 goals without adding a behind, while by contrast the Island had 11 scoring shots on the board by quarter-time alone – for only two majors.
The scoreboard didn’t paint the full picture, with some rushed behinds adding to the Island’s tally, but some of their wayward goal-kicking was also noticeable – particularly in comparison to a Goon side that seemingly couldn’t miss until deep into the third quarter.
Along with some of their regular suspects (Kimber and Youle), Leigh Warne also had a real impact for the Island in his defensive role on Troy McDermott, who ultimately played a little further up the ground and slotted three majors.
Goon skipper Brent Hughes also had his best game for the season to date, which included spending periods opposed to Kimber in the middle.
Essentially, the Goon’s biggest issues for the day on Saturday were summed up at quarter time with Blake urging his men to stay alert at the contest and stop ball-watching, and his mentor Jock Holland telling the midfield group in particular to play smarter football and not all pile into the contest at once. Communication was the key.
But pleasingly for the side, they clinched the four points against a quality outfit despite having plenty of room for improvement.
Speaking to the Gazette after the contest, Blake said his side treated the Island clash like an eight-point game – particularly given their next two opponents.
“We built these three up pretty much as finals,” he said.
“A loss would have put us right back in the mix.”
While the Goon again struggled to put together a complete four-quarter performance of top-quality work rate, Blake said Beck’s game was particularly impressive in this regard – particularly in the final term when the game was there to be won.
While he acknowledged the work his side still has left to do on its defensive mindset through the middle of the ground, Blake praised the group for coming together as a cohesive unit despite its injury concerns.
There’s no doubt the Goon will be looking to welcome back a group of key players – including the likes of Matt Stevens, Tyler Payroli, and Jake Rose – following the interleague break. The group overall has had a raft of soft tissue injuries to deal with to date, as evidenced by the 30 senior players used so far just six rounds into the season.