WEST GIPPSLAND FOOTBALL NETBALL COMPETITION
REVIEW – ROUND 11
By Russell Bennett
It’s safe to say Anthony Young and Ricky Clark won’t forget Saturday in a hurry.
Not only did their struggling Bunyip side pull off one of the upsets of the WGFNC season to date in defeating Cora Lynn by a straight kick, they both made their returns for the clash after overcoming serious injuries.
Clark was an integral part of the Cobras group that won three straight EDFL premierships under Travis Marsham and David Main. He seemingly went out on top after the 2016 EDFL grand final, in which – ironically – Cora Lynn defeated Bunyip.
The 11-time senior grand finalist and six-time premiership star across stints at Narre Warren, Gembrook Cockatoo, and Cora Lynn had osteitis pubis, in addition to a host of other physical complaints, which included a severe wrist injury.
But after taking over the Bunyip coaching job with great mate Aussie Jones this season, Clark felt he had more to offer his new club and in particular its young and emerging senior group.
Saturday marked his return to the side along with Young, whose own injury history can hardly be believed.
All the former Pakenham champion wanted to do was return to the field and play the game he loved again. Talk about putting footy into context.
He feared he’d never again get that chance in a senior game after his latest serious achilles injury.
His best mate and business partner with ‘Genyou Builders’, Nar Nar Goon senior coach and former Pakenham skipper Dean Blake, told the Gazette Young had just about the biggest injury history of any player he could remember.
“I reckon right back from the under-15s,” Blake said.
“He broke his arm twice one year, (and) has done shoulders, hamstrings, hands, and broke both his feet.”
The Gazette also understands Young has twice had surgery on his achilles.
Despite playing their senior footy in the same era and being practically the same age, Blake estimates Young has played barely half the amount of senior games that he has.
So it goes without saying his great mate was ‘rapt’ to just be able to run out on Saturday against the Cobras.
“He’s done more than his fair share of time on the sidelines,” Blake said, adding that Young poured his heart into any group he’d been a part of.
“He broke both his feet from 2010 to about 2012 and went on to the committee at Pakenham when he couldn’t play.
“He had six months off work at one stage – he’s done it tougher than anyone I know, footy-wise.”
Blake said his great mate wanted to play on while he could, and put as much back into Bunyip as possible.
“When I retired at the end of last year, everyone was asking if we were playing again – I was saying no, and he was saying yes and he could hardly walk,” Blake said of young.
“I just wish he could have my legs for a little bit. He makes everyone around him better – he’s so team-oriented.”
Goon favourite son Nick Henwood, another of Young’s great mates, estimated he’d missed more senior footy than he’d played.
“Younga was in my wedding party, and we’ve been great mates for ages,” he said.
“Just to see him back out there and a part of it is magnificent.
“He’s the ultimate team man, and once you finished playing against a side with him in it, you’d know exactly who he was – even if you hadn’t met him before.”
Fittingly, Young was one of Bunyip’s best on Saturday in its win over the Cobras, 8.8 (56) to 7.8 (50).
Former Beaconsfield star Damien Szwaja was also particularly influential, as were the likes of young guns Dylan Gallasch and Matt O’Halloran.
Jones said the on-field leadership of Young and Clark was particularly noticeable on Saturday.
“I think most of our frustration (over the season to date) has come from playing really good footy against every side, but not for long enough,” he said.
“We put our first four-quarter performance together on Saturday and we just hope the guys get a bit of confidence from that, and a bit more consistency.
“I hope we’re a bit scary for the finals sides to come.”
Jones said the feedback from some of his side’s midfielders after the game on Saturday was that the clash against the Cobras was the hardest they’d worked in a game of footy for a long time.
He said the unity among the Bulldog group had been fantastic throughout the season, even though it had struggled to convert that into wins.
“Our good is really, really good,” he said.
“We’ve just got to limit the difference between our best and worst.”
Meanwhile, at Nar Nar Goon, the home side broke free of Garfield in the second half to win by 38 points, 9.17 (71) to 5.3 (33).
Blake said he felt his side was in control for the majority of the game, in no small part due to the backline holding the Stars to just two first-half scoring shots.
“At the start of the third, they came out and kicked four quick ones,” he said.
“We started running forward (of the ball), predicting we’d win it.
“But to Garfield’s credit – with Wally (Michael Wallace) in the ruck – it took a while to get back on top.”
Blake spoke about how the Stars “embarrassed” his side when they first met this season at Garfield. The boys from the Goon were adamant they weren’t going to let that happen again.
In the other games across the competition on Saturday, the Giants overcame the Panthers by 39 points at Bass, 11.13 (79) to 6.4 (40); Phillip Island demolished Dalyston, 24.25 (169) to 3.3 (21); and Inverloch Kongwak got the better of Kooweerup by just 13 points at home in a battle of the competition heavyweights, 12.9 (81) to 10.8 (68). Josh Purcell was brilliant for the home side, while Jason Wells booted six majors for the visitors.