By Russell Bennett
WEST GIPPSLAND FOOTBALL NETBALL COMPETITION
REVIEW – ROUND 3
Too fast, too strong, too good.
It was hard to walk away thinking anything else about the Cobras after their dominant showing over their local rivals, the Demons, under lights at Cora Lynn on Saturday night.
The visitors started the stronger of the two sides – particularly at the contest and around the stoppages – but the strike of the Cobra was fast and frequent from the second quarter onwards, turning a five-point quarter-time deficit into a 26-point advantage at the main break.
From there, David Main’s men put the foot down, and kept it on the throat – storming to a commanding 11-goal win, 20.17 (137) to 10.11 (71).
Cora Lynn has been the most impressive side of the young season to date, claiming big wins over fellow finals aspirants Tooradin-Dalmore, Bunyip, and Kooweerup so far – in addition to their win over a struggling Kilcunda Bass.
What’s been the most telling about the Cobras through their first four games has been the ability of their new-look forward line to fire, and fire often.
But, equally, the side’s defense has been particularly adept at not only stopping key opposition forwards and playmakers from scoring, but converting their hard work into creating avenues to attack for their own side.
With his men trailing early on Saturday night, Main was straight to the point in the quarter-time huddle – telling them they’d been beaten around the stoppages, and were too often the last to leave the contest. The side’s strong, pressure-based brand wasn’t yet evident.
But, impressively, the turnaround in its intensity was almost immediate – leading to a domination of the final three quarters of the game.
When they were challenged early, the Cobras stood up and rose to the occasion.
Nathan Gardiner’s form up forward has been one of the biggest talking points of 2019 so far, and his 7.6 on Saturday night would have done nothing to dispel that.
When presented with space to lead in to, or even take on his opponent one-on-one, Gardiner is just like his side was on Saturday night – too fast, too strong, too good.
But the Cobras’ forward group fired as a whole on Saturday – with Nathan Langley booting five goals of his own, and Jai Rout another three.
Combine that with the selflessness, work rate, and footy IQ of Troy Tharle and Travis Woodfield and that again shows
Chris Johnson and Lachlyn Peluso were particularly influential through the middle of the ground, with Peluso’s intensity and pressure at the contest a noticeable standout before he succumbed to a shoulder injury.
Jeremy Monckton’s pace and daring out wide was just as telling, as was the quality of young midfield ace Heath Briggs.
Mitch Wallace was a standout in defense for a unit that effectively restricted the Demons’ attacking options.
That’s what made Jason Wells’ seven majors such a talking point for Kooweerup. He was terrific in kicking all but three of his side’s goals, while young stars in the making Matt Voss, Mitch Cammarano, and Nick Prowd showed plenty to build on for what will no doubt be long careers in the red and the blue.
Ultimately, the last five to 10 minutes of the second quarter, and the first five to 10 of the third – the period either side of the break – blew the game open for the home side.
“They got on top around the stoppages in the first quarter and shut us down completely, but we were still scoring when we did manage to get it forward,” Main said after the game.
“As soon as we got our structures set up around the footy and we started to win the clearances, the momentum changed our way and then it had a real effect on how we were defending as well.”
Main acknowledged that, despite his side’s strong beginning to the season, the Cobras were having difficulty starting games well.
So it was particularly important to them that they didn’t let up as the game progressed on Saturday night.
“A lot of that is because we were poor in the first quarter, so it was really important to have a strong finish to the game because when you have a side on the ropes, you’ve got to make the most of it.”
The Cobras know that, like it proved to be last season, the fight for finals positions could come right down to the final day of the home and away season.
While they defeated the Sea Eagles in last year’s elimination final, they look likely to progress much further this time around.