A lesson to learn

The little things, like closing out contests when the heat is seemingly out of them, could ultimately prove crucially important to the Sea Eagles this season. 179444. Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Russell Bennett

WEST GIPPSLAND FOOTBALL NETBALL COMPETITION
REVIEW – ROUND 7

 

Inverloch Kongwak received a serious wake-up call from Nar Nar Goon following the last quarter of their big clash on Saturday.

The reigning premiers were facing one of the aspiring challengers to their WGFNC throne, and at three-quarter time with a six-goal lead – having kept their opponents to just four goals to that point – they looked home.

The problem for Ben Soumilas’ men was that they played like it in the last – ultimately letting the Goon back to within 14 points, 11.7 (73) to 8.11 (59).

As he often has the tendency to do, Soumilas succinctly, yet perfectly summed up the clash – specifically its closing stages – in the immediate aftermath.

“We’re a mentally strong side that finished the game mentally weak,” he said.

Now, those comments could easily be taken out of context for those who didn’t see the game.

But they were delivered to serve a reminder to the playing group of what can happen when they switch off – when they go from performing like a V8 racer to a four-cylinder family car.

Just as it has been to date, Nar Nar Goon will likely remain one of the competition’s leading sides for the rest of the competition.

They’re strong in all areas of the ground, and still had the likes of ruckman Matt Stevens and crucially important backman Tyler Payroli missing from Saturday’s side.

Yet they took a three-point lead into quarter time but added just three majors over the second and third terms – the period in which the Sea Eagles strangled the life out of the contest with their seemingly insurmountable pressure.

While Trent Armour and Jake Blackwood shone all game, some of the Goon’s best users by foot seemed panicked in the face of the Sea Eagles’ set-up.

But in the last term, they broke the shackles and added four goals to just one from the home side. It was played in a polar opposite way to quarters two and three, and the question is – did they break the shackles, or did the Sea Eagles accidentally loosen them?

Troy McDermott finished with five goals after playing a starring role in the last, but he and the rest of the Goon forwards more than had their hands full over quarters one to the three as the Sea Eagles controlled the momentum.

The composure, toughness, and ball use of Lewis Rankin was a key reason why, while the likes of Andy Soumilas and Adam Cross – despite both being in their mid-30s – tackled like teenage players with everything to prove.

Shem Hawking, Tom Wyatt, and Michael Eales were also clear standouts when the game was there to be won.

But let’s rewind a second – back to ‘with everything left to prove’.

In the last quarter on Saturday, the Sea Eagles played like a side with absolutely nothing left to prove.

They’re the all-conquering reigning premiers and have been rampant so far this season. But if they want to stay that way, and go back-to-back as so many say they will, they’ll need to keep Saturday’s final term front of mind as a stark reminder of what another premiership aspirant can do when they get a sniff.

It should be noted that Inverloch was missing the likes of Toby Mahoney, Josh Purcell, Dylan Clark, Josh Clottu, and Will Hetherington on Saturday – each of them absolutely crucial to their cause.

And after the clash, Ben Soumilas admitted that had played on his mind somewhat.

“I’m still confident in, and happy with, how the boys performed but I’ve probably got to change my views a little bit because I was still focused this week on who we had out.

“There are five players there who I would have happily picked for interleague and I was too focussed on it (not having them available).

“So, I couldn’t be happier that when the heat was on we had 21 who did the job and got it done.

“Every side at our level relies on their good players, but when you have players like Adam (Cross) and Andy – they had 23 tackles between them.”

One Nar Nar Goon player who fans will be looking out for on the field this Saturday against Kooweerup is Jake Smith, who was forced from the field just nine minutes into the Sea Eagles game following a concerning reaction to a knock before ultimately returning to the field later in the clash.

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