By Hayley Wildes
The Gippsland Power welcomed back many stars, including skipper Brock Smith and Fraser Phillips, for its clash against the Oakleigh Chargers at Morwell on Saturday and the team returned to the winners’ list.
The Power was still without the likes of Caleb Serong, Sam Flanders, Josh Smith and Riley Baldi, but it mattered little as Phillips tore the game apart.
Phillips put through the first major of the game after four minutes of play and it was a sign of things to come as he would run riot up forward all day.
Minutes later,16-year-old Kooweerup gun Nick Prowd slotted a goal with his first ever disposal in the NAB League. Prowd, a strong key position player, took a handful of impressive grabs in his debut for the Power and looks like someone to keep an eye on in the coming years.
At quarter-time, the Power held a 20-point lead, 4.4 (28) to 1.2 (8).
To the Chargers’ credit, they fought their way back into the contest in the second term, courtesy of a three-goal to one quarter and at the main break Gippsland held a five-point lead, 5.6 (36) to 4.7 (31).
After allowing the Chargers to claw back the deficit in the second quarter, the Power didn’t make the same mistake in the third quarter.
Three goals in the opening seven minutes – including two Phillips majors – suddenly gave Gippsland some breathing room. While that seven-minute period changed the game, Phillips wasn’t done and kicked another classy goal to make it three for the quarter.
When Jake van der Pligt kicked truly with just a minute to play in the third stanza, the Power boasted a 39-point lead, 10.10 (70) to 4.7 (31).
The work of Leo Connolly and Smith was sublime in the third quarter, with both playing key roles in helping Gippsland score five goals and keep Oakleigh scoreless.
The fourth term was an even battle and Connolly’s dominant game (32 disposals) was capped off with a major, while Phillips booted his fifth goal of the day to see the Power run out 13.13 (91) to 6.9 (45) winners.
Phillips (20 disposals and five goals) was a game-changer and his presence in the forward line was unmatched, while the midfield battle was dominated by Gippsland thanks to Connolly, Smith (26 disposals), Sam Berry (26 disposals and five tackles) and Ryan Sparkes (26 disposals).
The win powered Gippsland (7-3) up to third on the ladder. With many of its stars set to miss this week’s game against Geelong at Shepley Oval on Saturday afternoon due to the 2019 AFL Under-18 Championships, Gippsland will have to rely on its young guns.
Many Power stars will be lining up for Vic Country at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong against South Australia from 1pm on Friday.