By Russell Bennett
WEST GIPPSLAND FOOTBALL NETBALL COMPETITION
REVIEW – ROUND 6
The tragic events on the Bass Highway at Anderson near Phillip Island a little over a week ago served as a stark reminder that football simply is not the be all, and end all.
At the end of the day, it’s just a game.
Except in the days since the accident that claimed the life of teenage Dalyston footballer Campbell Ion, the local West Gippsland football community has banded together – with support from their brethren in wider Gippsland footy circles.
An incredible $67,000 was raised in just eight days via a GoFundMe page set up to support the Ion family in their hour of need.
And on the weekend, right across Gippsland, even more was being done for the cause.
Players right across the region donned black arm bands as a mark of respect, while clubs throughout the area posted touching messages of support for the Dalyston community on social media.
This was far more than just token support. This was legitimate. This was genuine.
This was heartfelt.
Garfield’s efforts against Dalyston on the weekend were nothing short of remarkable – both in the lead-up to the clash, and immediately following it.
Senior Stars players made the decision to donate the money from their match-day awards to the Ion family.
The reserves, despite going down to Dalyston in a thriller by four points, entered the home side’s change-rooms to sing the victors’ song.
And the seniors, meanwhile, clapped their Magpie opposition off the ground after their game – a hard-fought win the Stars’ way, 7.5 (47) to 7.3 (45) – before opting to not even sing their own song in the wake of the clash.
This all marked an incredible sign of respect in a competition that is only in its third season.
But again – this wasn’t about the win or the loss. This was more than footy.
The Stars held on, despite going goalless in a tense final term, to narrowly overcome the Magpies, while elsewhere Korumburra-Bena went down by 10 goals to Nar Nar Goon at Spencer Street – 15.16 (106) to 6.10 (46).
By Giants coach Paul Alger’s own admission, the first quarter of that clash – where his side kicked a solitary point – was the group’s worst of the season.
But, discounting that, there was still plenty for the building group to be optimistic about.
With 16 of its players under the age of 20, their lack of size was clearly exposed.
But in nearly three quarters – from the start of the second term, until about three minutes remaining in the contest, the Giants had kicked six goals to the Goon’s seven.
The Giants’ execution still needs plenty of work, though. They had the ball in their forward line for the first seven minutes of the third term and kicked three behinds – all from less than 30 metres out.
The Goon subsequently answered that with a goal at the other end – showing the difference in finishing ability between a finals-bound side, and one on the rise but still building.
A depleted Tooradin-Dalmore, meanwhile, earned plenty of respect in a young season in which they’ve already got plenty of it.
Heading to Cowes to take on the reigning premier Phillip Island, the Gulls lost by just 22 points – 11.18 (84) to 9.8 (62) – despite missing a number of their key contributors, Dylan Wilson, Jason Kestle, and leaders Matt Livermore and Jake O’Donnell.
A host of the Gulls’ young stars – namely the Lenders twins, Tim and Brad, and versatile tall Dylan Sutton – were particularly impressive in the wet, slippery conditions.
But it was the uncompromising style through the middle of the ground from the likes of Zak Vernon and Cam Pedersen that had a defining impact on the contest.
Jack Taylor (four goals) and Jason Tomada also put in telling efforts at opposite ends of the ground for an Island side that was pushed all the way.
Gulls coach Lachie Gillespie is known as a real teaching coach, and he showcased that in his address in the rooms at half-time. He wasn’t so concerned about the at-times overwhelming inside-50 numbers for the Island – but rather what the Bulldogs did with the ball once it was in there.
And that’s where a number of the Gulls’ defenders lifted an extra gear.
In the wake of the clash, Island coach Beau Vernon told his charges just how important it was to be truly tested, and learn to fight through those challenges.
At the close of the weekend, Round 6 proved to be another test that the Island passed.
At Bunyip, the Demons were given one hell of a fright against a vastly-improved Bunyip, escaping with a three-point win – 11.7 (73) to 10.10 (70) – despite trailing by seven points heading into the final term.
The Demons led by 21 at the main break, but coughed that up and were staring right down the battle until they survived a thrilling conclusion.
The likes of Aaron Paxton and Jeb McLeod, who are both destined for senior interleague duties this weekend against the EDFL, were particularly gallant for the Bulldogs.
In the remaining contests of the round, Inverloch Kongwak was far too good for Kilcunda Bass, winning 14.12 (96) to 5.4 (34); and Cora Lynn was similarly clinical at Western Park, accounting for the Dusties 13.12 (90) to 1.5 (11).