By Russell Bennett
WEST GIPPSLAND FOOTBALL NETBALL COMPETITION
REVIEW – ROUND 10
In 17 years of coaching, Hayden Stanton had never experienced a draw in a game involving one of his sides… that is, prior to Saturday.
For the second time in seven days, there was a drawn game in the WGFNC senior competition as this time around Tooradin-Dalmore split the points with the visiting Garfield.
It’s another sign of just how hard-fought the competition is, particularly amongst the top eight senior sides.
The Stars got off to a slow start in the first half and found themselves 30 points in arrears – much to the frustration of Stanton.
But they rebounded strongly against the highly-fancied Gulls in the second half and ultimately levelled the scores for good with just five seconds remaining – courtesy of a wayward, yet crucial, snap from Rhys Murphy after Tanner Stanton drew a two-on-one contest.
“I think, realistically, we were fortunate to be only 30 points down at half-time,” Stanton said in the wake of the clash, which his side drew with Tooradin-Dalmore 9.9 (63) to 8.15 (63).
“Our first half wasn’t good enough – we didn’t adjust to the wetness of the ground, we had a 50/50 kick to handball ratio, and we weren’t playing the territory game well enough.”
But with the second half came a series of key changes – including putting former Seagull Michael Wallace in the ruck, and sending ruckman Corie Intveen down forward.
Garfield was down in a number of key indicators in the first half – such as the clearance, inside 50, and tackle counts – but they all had a marked improvement from half-time onwards.
“Our second half was really good,” Stanton said.
“In the first half we didn’t play the conditions well and we were second to the ball.”
Stanton said the peaks and troughs in his side’s form had a lot to do with its relative in experience – with an average age in the early twenties.
Young Joe Verleg was a real standout for the Stars on Saturday, as was the evergreen Ned Marsh, while James McKellar kept Andrew Dean to two goals – despite the amount of inside 50s the Gulls recorded.
Brad Lenders, Waide Symes, Adam Galea, Kris Sabbatucci, and Dean were named among the home side’s best.
In summarising the contest, Stanton said: “It was a disappointing first half, but an exciting and promising second half.
“We need to address the areas we were poor in – like our inability to take the easy outs, and conceding goals from turnovers.
“We’ve got a big challenge this week (against Kooweerup) but we’ve got the opportunity in front of us at home. It’ll be an enthralling contest.”
And as for Stanton coaching his first draw?
“I feel like a proud dad, but disappointed we didn’t play the way we wanted to early enough to take the opportunity (for a win),” he said.
“Although a draw is a taste of the pie, it’s not the whole pie with the cherry on top.”
Elsewhere across the competition on the weekend, Phillip Island escaped with a hard-fought 13-point win at home over Inverloch Kongwak 11.15 (81) to 10.8 (68), with Cam Pedersen again simply dominant.
If there was a betting market for the WGFNC senior league best and fairest, the former North Melbourne and Melbourne utility’s odds would surely be about $1.50 at this stage.
After an intriguing start at Cora Lynn, the Cobras ultimately brushed the Giants aside with ease – winning 17.17 (119) to 5.7 (37) off the back of starring roles from versatile forwards Travis Woodfield (five goals) and Nathan Langley (three).
The Dusties, meanwhile, continue to edge clear of the bottom three after a 31-point away win over Dalyston – 10.9 (69) to 5.8 (38) – thanks in no small part to a seven-goal haul from favourite son, Shane Brewster.
In the remaining game of the round, Kilcunda Bass was predictably outmatched against Kooweerup at Denhams Road, going down by a whopping 109 points – 21.14 (140) to 3.13 (31).
Forwards Jason Wells and Darren Sheen got the perfect tune up for a crucial stretch of the season to come, booting bags of seven and six goals respectively.