By David Nagel
It’s hard to imagine that this latest iteration of Phillip Island could be better and more powerful than the rest – but it certainly appeared that way as the Bulldogs swept aside one of their main challengers at Cora Lynn on Sunday.
This was a dominant performance from start – when Cam Pedersen launched a bomb from centre half back that was next touched by foot when dribbled through from the goal square – to finish, when Beau Vernon’s men refused to concede an inch despite having the game well and truly parcelled up.
It was ruthless, tough, uncompromising – and the Cobras were found wanting.
And that’s not garnishing things with mayonnaise, it’s the brutal truth of what took place in a 70-point drubbing that no-one in West Gippsland football saw coming.
It sets the benchmark, one the Cobras are certainly capable of attaining…but right now there’s a flock of Seagulls from Westernport way that would appear to have the best chance of challenging for the Bulldogs’ crown.
Pressure, and plenty of it, cracked this one wide open.
“That’s exactly the way we like to play our footy, high pressure, we don’t know any other way,” said Bulldogs’ captain Jaymie Youle after the match.
“I think we just put on a great performance from start to finish today. We were prepared for Cora Lynn to bring the heat and our disciplines and structures really stood up.”
The Bulldogs led by nine points at quarter time courtesy of goals to Zak Vernon – who dribbled through Pedersen’s offering – a snap from Max Blake, and a goal of the day contender on the run from Levi Robinson.
But it was the second quarter, that Beau Vernon described at three-quarter time as the best quarter of footy he had seen for some time, that really set the cat amongst the pigeons.
Blake’s ferocity at the man was rewarded with a goal from holding the ball, before Pedersen launched high to grab a fantastic contested mark. Blake and Pedersen would mark again before a Cobra fumble led to a tap in from the goal square to end a great quarter into the wind.
The game was done and dusted from there, the Bulldogs extending a 34-point lead at the main break to 46 at three-quarter time and 70 by the final siren.
The Bulldogs midfield brigade of Brendan Kimber, Eli Richards, Pedersen and Youle set the scene early for the visitors, while Blake’s four goals were well earned given his propensity for hard work.
Daniel Pearce and Damien Holmes were immovable across half back, while Brady White and Tom Stiglich fought things out to the bitter end for the Cobras.
At Nar Nar Goon, coach Luke Young had his nerve tested early before the Goon steadied to record a 34-point victory over Korumburra-Bena.
The Goon lacked discipline early to trail by 16 points at quarter time but steadied with a 5.4 to three point second term.
“That was probably the most impressive thing, that we didn’t panic and stuck to our structures,” Young said.
“I’ve got confidence and trust in the boys that we can do that, and I thought after a slow start we played our style of football and pretty much controlled the contest.
“We just struggled a bit with our execution going forward but I was happy how we played.”
Eamon Trigg, Kyle O’Sullivan and Trent Armour were terrific for the home side while Alaster Bradley slotted three for the Giants.
Garfield coach Hayden Stanton was happy to lock away four points, in poor conditions, against a largely unknown opponent in Warragul Industrials, his Stars prevailing by 25 points on Saturday night.
“It poured on and off and the conditions weren’t great so we were happy to walk away with the four points and move on,” Stanton said.
“We were pleased with most of our performance but we moved away from what we’re trying to do in the second quarter and let them back into the contest.
“I thought we controlled the footy after half time mainly due to a bit more consistency through the midfield.”
Stanton said he expects the Dusties to surprise a few this year given the right conditions.
“They’ve loaded up pretty heavily in the front half and obviously a cold Saturday night at Garfield is not conducive to that type of footy,” Stanton said.
“I think on a good seeing day they might surprise a few teams this season.”
Zac Soutar and Andy Soumilas had a night out for the Stars while Will Jolley and Michael Debenham were serviceable contributors for the Dusties.
The pre-season hype surrounding Tooradin-Dalmore might be right on the mark after the Seagulls dished out a 101-point defeat to a youthful Kooweerup.
Blake Grewar bagged seven in a command performance for the home team, while former Hastings star Steve Robb was tough and hard at the contest.
“We knew they were young so we tried to be physical early and take the game away from them, but they were up for the fight,” said Seagulls coach Lachie Gillespie.
“It probably took us 10 minutes to find our feet and once we started using the ball better moving forward, using the corridor, I thought we played some good football, very pleasing.”
Nathan Voss kicked three goals for the Demons.
And a new-look Bunyip has started its season in style with a 29-point victory over Dalyston.
Jason Williams kicked three, while Ryan Quirk and Michael Collins were influential figures in their first games since switching from Narre Warren. Jackson Dalton also starred for the Bulldogs, who kept the Magpies scoreless in the final term.