By David Nagel
Phillip Island’s quest for a third consecutive West Gippsland Football Netball Competition (WGFNC) crown is right on track after the Bulldogs cemented ladder-leadership with a 34-point victory over Inverloch-Kongwak at the Cowes Rec Reserve on Saturday.
Heavy over-night rains left the Bulldogs’ home ground in a greasy condition, with surface water still visible just metres from where the umpire threw the Sherrin high into the sky at 2pm.
A healthy crowd braved the chilly conditions, with Bulldog superstar Cam Pedersen starting in his usual position in the ruck, while Hawthorn champion Jarryd Roughead was the most dangerous forward on the ground in the first quarter, lining up on Bulldog Jason Tomada.
The Bulldogs welcomed back the steel of their engine-room with champion Brendan Kimber absolutely relishing the greasy conditions and inevitable tough contests. Kimber’s last game was on the same deck on Saturday, 24 April when the Doggies lost to Nar Nar Goon by five points.
Despite almost two months away from the game, the tough-as-nails midfielder didn’t miss a beat and is going to be a nightmare for opposition onballers this season.
Inverloch did look the sharper, and slightly more desperate, in the opening exchanges.
Its defence was rock solid, with Michael Eales, Todd Mackie, Campbell McKenzie and Tristan Van Driel – who was banished to the backline after kicking eight goals against Nar Nar Goon last week – repelling any forward thrust from the home side.
Corey Casey, Tom Hams and Ryan Sparkes were going head-to-head with Kimber and co through the midfield, while Roughead looked 10 years younger than his 1987 birth certificate might suggest.
‘Roughie’ flew for his marks in the first term, having three serious good looks at goal but only converting one after a strong grab over the top of Tomada.
The Sea Eagles had the first two on the board after Jenson Garnham crumbed his own footy after a fierce marking contest, but the Bulldogs did start to stake a claim as the quarter wore on.
They only kicked one in the first quarter…but it smacked of class.
Damien Holmes picked up a loose pill just forward of centre and found Zak Vernon with his crisp left foot, before Vernon found Kimber with a nicely-weighted kick to the fat side that fell perfectly into his arms.
Kimber, resting forward, did the rest and the Bulldogs were off and running.
Beau Vernon gave his Bulldogs some crystal-clear instructions at quarter time and it worked, with the home side locking down and allowing the Sea Eagles just four goals for the remainder of the contest.
The Bulldogs would kick 10 goals after the first break to gradually pull away for a comprehensive victory.
Jesse Patullo and Hayden Bruce would join Kimber with two goals each for the winners, while Pedersen’s influence on the game grew stronger as the afternoon grew longer.
Mitch Moschetti was also impressive in his first game back since round five, while skipper Jaymie Youle and Vernon joined Kimber as effective midfield-forward contributors.
Inverloch coach Ben Soumilas will obviously be disappointed with the loss – especially after such a positive start – but all is certainly not lost for the Sea Eagles and their premiership hopes this season.
When two good teams play footy, one loses, and the margins between winning and losing at that elite level are finite.
The Sea Eagles were without their two captains, Shem Hawking and Toby Mahoney, so will definitely improve for their next meeting against the champs.
Garnham and Hams were the only multiple contributors for the Sea Eagles, with two each, while the elusive Lewis Rankin joined Van Driel, McKenzie and Eales as the best of the Sea Eagles’ defensive group.
You get the feeling that the Bulldogs may have won the battle…but the overall war is still very much up for grabs for both of these fine units.
Final scores, Phillip Island 11.15 (81) to Inverloch-Kongwak 6.11 (47).
Tooradin-Dalmore has had the perfect preparation for a huge upcoming fortnight of footy after the Seagulls came from behind at three-quarter time to secure a 12.11 (83) to 9.9 (63) away victory over an improving Bunyip.
The Seagulls will have the spotlight firmly fixed on them over the next two weeks with home games against Garfield and Cora Lynn set to tell us a lot more about all three sides.
The Seagulls started impressively on Saturday, were then outplayed for two quarters, before showing nerves of steel to change the momentum in the final term and forge clear to victory.
The Gulls had an impressive 10 scoring shots to three in the last quarter – dominant by any measure.
Andrew Dean and Stewie Scanlon both bounced back from quiet days against Phillip Island last week to kick three goals each, while skipper Jordan Kelly and Cooper Shipp were ever-reliable in the back half.
Ruckman Josh Mulheron had a great battle with Agape Patolo in the ruck, while Dylan Wilson and class-recruit Adam Oxley will take some good form into this week’s crunch contest against the Stars.
Despite the loss, this was probably Bunyip’s second-best performance of the season delivered against a powerful opponent who has its sights set on footy’s grandest prize.
Matty O’Halloran and Jeb McLeod continued their fine run of form this year, while the Quirk boys – Dylan and Ryan – joined Patolo on an impressive best players list.
Xavier Kinder and Beau Runnalls joined McLeod with two goals each for the Bulldogs, who return to their home deck for a tough game against Kilcunda-Bass this week.
Garfield has won back-to-back games for the first time since round three after the Stars hit the ground running on their way to a 13.16 (94) to 6.9 (45) victory over Dalyston at Beswick Street on Saturday.
The Stars effectively locked away the four points in the opening term, kicking five unanswered goals to race out to a 28-point lead.
Coach Hayden Stanton will be pleased that his side created 29 scoring shots – their most for the season – but knows that conversion will be a lot more critical when his Stars run onto Westernport Oval this week to take on Tooradin.
Matt Rennie continued his super-consistent season, booting four for the winners, while Zac Soutar put his height to good use to kick two. Ned Marsh, Gav Pears and Jono Sauze were influential for the Stars, while Jayden Goumas once again grew a leg in the suitable wintry conditions.
Peter Dunlop will be disappointed with the Magpies start and will be hoping for better when they travel to Nar Nar Goon this Saturday.
Matt Howell and Brad Monson toiled hard for the vanquished, while Ethan Ford capped off a fine game with a goal.
Nar Nar Goon has bounced back strongly from last week’s poor performance against Inverloch with a commanding 14.11 (95) to 6.7 (43) victory over Kilcunda-Bass.
This was a dangerous trip down the South Gippy Highway for the Goon, who were blown away last start while the Panthers had a confidence-boosting victory over Kooweerup.
But the outcome of this contest was clear from the early stages, with the Goon having seven scoring shots to two in the opening term.
The Panthers did lift their rating in the third quarter, but that was the only downside for Luke Young and his men who responded in style with a six-goal to two final stanza.
The Goon simply had too many options up forward, with Jake Smith booting three and Shannon Stocco, Luke Bettio and Chase Blackwood all chiming in with two each in the absence of regular sharp-shooter Troy McDermott.
Youngster Paddy Cross continues to impress for the Goon, while the Blackwood boys, Chase, Jake and Sam, all played key roles in the victory.
Taylor Gibson kicked two goals and was best for the Panthers, while Jake Weightman, Shelton Rosario and Darcy Atkins were all influential figures on the day.
Cora Lynn’s Nathan Gardiner and Korumburra-Bena’s Daniel Willis enjoyed a Saturday afternoon shootout, both booting six goals in the Cobras’ 14.9 (93) to 10.10 (70) win at the Cobradome.
Gardiner, the reigning league goal-kicking champion, has struck a rich vein of form after a slowish start to the season, having booted 26 goals now in his last four games.
The Cobras were forced to work harder than a lot would have predicted for this one, having just three more scoring shots than the Giants who will take a lot of positives from their afternoon’s work.
For the Cobras, the quality of Heath Briggs is starting to shine through after many weeks on the sidelines, while Ash Williams and Brady White stopped this one from getting really dangerous by controlling the tempo of things in the back half.
For the Giants, Ben Fitzpatrick complemented the great work of Willis with three goals of his own, while Josh Hargreaves and Jye Celebrine were others to produce Giant-sized efforts.
That effort will need to rise even further when the Giants host Phillip Island this week.
And Warragul Industrials has kept its faint finals hopes alive with a 13.10 (88) to 7.6 (48) victory over Kooweerup at Western Park.
This was an absorbing contest for three quarters before the Dusties grew a 14-point three-quarter-time lead to 40 points by the final siren with a 4.4 to 0.2 final term.
The Dusties have now won four games for the year, doubling their output from the last time we played footy in 2019.
Coach Harmit Singh is doing a great job of building his list – with several recruits having a big impact on the weekend.
Kyle Beveridge and Jackson Mockett kicked a goal each and were consistent four-quarter performers, while Mason McGarrity and Sage Tapner kicked three goals each to prove the difference between the two teams up forward.
Koowee coach Rhys Nisbet is used to success and will be biting his bottom lip through these defeats – even though he knows his team is building a bright future.
The Demons are showing some promising signs, with Jackson Berry, Nathan Voss and Tom Deighton kicking two goals each and Mitch Cammarano continuing his outstanding season through the midfield.
The experienced Tim Miller is playing some great football and is leading by example, while Ethan McDonald and Bailey Galante will take some good form into this week’s tough essay against a rebounding Inverloch-Kongwak.