By Nick Creely
Doveton coach Daniel Charles knew that it was unlikely there would be a repeat when they ventured down to Starling Road to take on a highly-emotional, in-form Officer side.
Back on Good Friday, the Doves gave the Kangaroos an almighty touch up to begin the AFL Outer East season, but since then, Doug Koop’s side has bounced back in a big way, showcasing the credentials that had them as one of the most talked about sides in the competition in the pre-season.
With the emotion of favourite son Ben Tivendale’s record-breaking occasion – combined with a side beaming with confidence after four-straight wins on their home deck – Charles knew they were encountering a completely different side to that of early in the year.
“We knew it was going to be a big game; they’ve improved over the course of the season,” he said.
“We caught them unawares the first time we played them, and we knew they’d be more ready to go.
“All the talk (in the pre-season) was on them winning the flag, and being favourites, and us not winning a game last year, it was probably easy to just pencil that Good Friday one down as a win, and they might have done that the first time.
“And this time, we knew they weren’t going to do that, we knew it would be a tougher ask, and they’re a good side.”
The Doves surged into third spot and a 5-3 record on Saturday, turning the game around in the second half to spoil the party for the ‘Roos, 11.6 (72) to 8.10 (58).
In reality, the Kangaroos should have been further ahead at the major break after taking in a four-point lead at quarter time and also a four-point advantage at half-time, despite dominating a lot of the play around the ground.
While there were certainly plenty of ebbs and flows of momentum, the class of the likes of Matthew Clarke (three goals) and recruit Brent Moloney – as well as the skills of Tyler Clark – caused plenty of headaches, but the Doves crucially kept themselves in the contest with their physicality at the contest and desperation in defence.
With their back-six playing superbly, the Doves started translating some dominance on the scoreboard, with the visitors kicking four goals to one in the game-winning third quarter surge, before holding firm once more to knock off the ‘Roos for the second time this season.
Charles heaped praise on his backline for keeping them in the game when under siege at certain times in the second half.
“Our backline played really well on the weekend, and they dominated most of the second quarter, and if it wasn’t for them, we would have been further behind,” he said.
“Sammy Muirhead probably played the game of his life on the weekend, he was brilliant.”
Lachie Batten’s (two goals) super season continued with another classy display for the Doves, youngster Tristan Fernandez-Phillips showed plenty of toe, while Muirhead and Sean Kelleher (three goals) all had a major impact.
Charles said that his side is still finding its right mix after a hefty player turnover in the off-season, but said that the best is yet to come for his side in the second-half of the season.
“We got off to a good start on Good Friday, and with the emotion of that game, everyone sort of put themselves up and it was a massive relief, and it took us a while to get going again,” he said.
“I think over the last few weeks, pretty much since the Mount Evelyn game, we’ve been on the improve, and we’re getting better.
“We’ve got a brand new side, I think in Round 1 we had 11 that played the year before, and since then, we’ve had even less.
“We’ve played eight first year players this year, so they’re finding their feet, and with injuries, there have been some opportunities for young blokes.
“It takes time, we were hoping we would be playing our best football towards the second half of the year, and that’s just a waiting game to see how it happens.”
Monbulk, meanwhile, extended its undefeated run for yet another week, completely dismantling Belgrave at home, 24.12 (156) to 4.8 (32).
The Hawks finally found their kicking boots and made the most of its chances up forward – a strange problem for a side that sits comfortably atop the ladder with no losses next to their name– in a dominant attacking display that featured 36 scoring shots, but crucially 24 goals.
Barely giving the Magpies a sniff, the Hawks extended its lead at every break, but saved their best to last, turning a 66-point lead into 124 after a 10.5 to 1.1 final term.
Michael Langworthy was completely dominant with six goals on the day, Shane Williams slotted another four to take his tally to 26 for the season, while Luke Casini and Patrick Barge did some brilliant work up the ground.
On a dirty day for the visitors, Daniel Noy, Josh Richmond (two goals) and Jason Bartils battled hard.
The competition’s other dominant side, Pakenham, also chugged out yet another impressive win, this time against Emerald at Chandler Reserve, 15.12 (102) to 7.4 (46).
It was a bright start for the Bombers, who managed to halt the Lions’ run and carry to take a six-point lead, but Ash Green’s side flicked the switch in the second to nail seven-unanswered goals and put the game to bed.
The Lions – as they have all year – shared the goals around to kick even further way with a seven goal to five final half.
Josh Tynan’s recent strong form continued for the Lions, slotting another two and showcasing his class, while the likes of Liam Tyrrell, Stephen Morey and Zac Stewart played strong games.
The Bombers will take plenty out of the clash despite a fadeout, with Josh Rich excellent with two goals.
And in the final game of the round, Warburton Millgrove stunned a wayward Mount Evelyn at home in a major upset, 8.5 (53) to 6.15 (51). The win keeps the Burras’ faint finals hopes alive.
In Division 2, Gembrook Cockatoo couldn’t reel in an early Kinglake lead to go down by three goals on the road, 12.15 (87) to 9.14 (68).
The Brookers trailed by as much as 28 points at half-time, and clawed their way back into the game, but the Lakers did just enough to hold on and leave the Brookers teetering in fifth spot.