Wickers apply the pressure

Berwick star Ash Smith dishes off a handball on Saturday. 184188 Pictures: ROB CAREW

By Nick Creely



Berwick and Narre Warren may have had their eyes firmly fixed on what’s yet to come, but Saturday provided a fascinating glimpse into the mindset of both clubs entering finals.

With notable outs including Madi Andrews, Jo West and Michael Riseley for the Wickers and Brad Scalzo and Nick Scanlon sitting out for the Magpies, depth was on display, and the Wickers proved too strong, 8.19 (67) to 4.6 (30).

Perhaps their only blemish was their goal kicking, but it was nonetheless an impressive performance driven by a class display from Bryce Rutheford, who was simply sublime.

The Magpies’ defence was certainly under its fair share of duress across the day, but despite the Wickers’ dominance, they could only hold a nine-point lead at quarter time.

At quarter time, Wickers coach Stewart Kemperman lauded his side for its 12 inside 50 tackles, saying “we’re on boys, I can feel it.”

They certainly were, producing a quality second quarter to extend their margin to 26 at the main break, a lead that the Magpies were unable to claw back from.

Rutherford’s presence was immense, offering plenty from the inside before bursting away to be a menace with his run, and his teammates lifted with him, with the likes of Luke Sheppard, Luke Jellyman-Turner and Reece Piper finding a stack of the footy to give their forwards plenty of looks at goal.

After struggling to deal with the wave of pressure supplied by the Wickers, the Magpies could only add one major in the third term courtesy of a cracking running goal by Jake Richardson, and starred down the barrel of a heavy defeat.

Magpies coach Matt Shinners issued a challenge to his players ahead of the final quarter, staring his players in the eyes and delivering a message.

“We haven’t really worked for each other – let’s see if we can work to instruction,” he said.

“Let’s at least try and win this quarter, and finish it off.”

They did win the last quarter, snaring two late goals, with Dylan and Ryan Quirk once again prominent, while Joel Zietsman was once again impressive in defence.

But it was a quality effort from the reigning premiers, who have hit top gear at exactly the right time of the season.

“I’m certainly happy with our effort, and our application to the contest, and I suppose we didn’t execute as well as we would have liked,” Kemperman said of the game.

“But there are plenty of areas of improvement.”

Down at Frenken Homes Oval, Beaconsfield gained a huge confidence booster with a gritty win over Cranbourne, 8.10 (58) to 6.8 (44).

Now with three wins ahead of finals, it’s the perfect preparation for the Eagles, who have built steadily after a raft injuries.

Leading at every change, the Eagles showed great maturity, with the likes of Tylah Stokoe, Matt Homfray, Damien Johnston and Jake Bowd leading from the front to claim a late season scalp.

“My boys really enjoy playing them, it’s always a challenge and the players have a great amount of respect for each other from both clubs,” Beaconsfield coach Leigh McQuillen said of the match.

McQuillen believes his side was even across the board, and was thrilled with how his group matched up on the Eagles’ quality forward line and midfield.

“(It was) very pleasing – it’s two pronged as you not only have to get your match ups right on their key targets but you also have to win more of the midfield battle,” he said.

“We believe we did well in both areas after they defeated us at their home ground earlier in the year.

“They’re a good side and they do play an extremely attacking brand so we invested the time into them earlier in the year knowing we had them again and possibly in the finals.”

For the Eagles, usual suspects Brandon Osborne and Michael Wenn were terrific.

And Tooradin-Dalmore held on to register a nail biting win over finals bound Officer in their final game of the season, 11.16 (82) to 12.7 (79).

Down by the Westernport and with a stiff breeze, the Seagulls held the Kangaroos scoreless to be 27 points up at quarter time, before Doug Koop’s side fought back to level pegging at half time.

In a see sawing final half, the Seagulls once again used the wind to their advantage to work out to a 29 point lead with a quarter to play, and despite being held goalless in the final term, held on to win narrowly.

Andrew Dean finished his strong year off with three majors next to his name in a quality display, while Luke McKenna, Nathan Goodacre and Jake O’Donnell all played well.

For the Kangaroos on a disappointing day, Tyler Clark, James Waldon and Will Hanson were all important contributors.

In the final game of the round, Pakenham finished the year off on a high with a comfortable win over Doveton, 14.9 (93) to 5.9 (39).

The Lions and Doves were neck and neck for the first half, but Ash Green’s side powered away with a 12 goal to three final half.