By David Nagel
Wet and greasy conditions are supposed to even up the playing field – but the top-four contenders in West Gippsland football used Saturday’s miserable conditions to magnify their authority on the competition this year.
The top-four – Tooradin-Dalmore, Nar Nar Goon, Phillip Island and Inverloch-Kongwak – scored 405 points between them on the weekend, averaging 101 points per team, while the bottom eight teams struggled to hit the scoreboard.
A total of 233 points were scored in four matches, with sides outside the top-four averaging just 29 points per team.
And to rubber-stamp that wet-weather theory, the teams that sit fifth and sixth on the ladder – Bunyip and Warragul Industrials – were the next highest scoring teams in the Dusties 7.4.46 to 5.5.35 victory at Bunyip on Saturday.
Maybe wet-weather football is the thing that really does separate the pretenders from the contenders!
The Dusties were outplayed in the first half by the Bulldogs, but a 4.3 to 1.1 third quarter saw the Dusties turn a 15-point deficit into a five-point lead at the final change of ends.
An dour arm-wrestle ensued, with Dusties’ forward Anthony Bruhn receiving a free-kick with roughly five minutes left on the clock to give Harmit Singh and his boys the breathing room required for victory.
It certainly wasn’t pretty, particularly early, but Singh was relieved to walk away from Bunyip with the four points.
“To be honest I thought Bunyip was the better side in the first half,” Singh said.
“They set the ground up well and ground balls were heavily in their favour.
“We didn’t work the ball out of stoppage the way we would have liked, and we didn’t set up well behind the ball.
“I think we were four goals down at one point in the second quarter and we weren’t playing, or being allowed to play, the game the way we had planned to play it.
“That’s a credit to Tim (McGibney) and the Bunyip boys, but I felt the last five minutes of the second quarter we started to arrest the momentum and get some good looks and open up some opportunities.
“We tidied up our work around the contest in the third quarter and set the ground up better, which meant we kept the ball in our forward line for longer.
“We had the best of the field position in the third quarter and made the most of our opportunities, which was nice given the conditions.”
The Dusties were frugal in the second half, with Singh thrilled with his team’s ability to tie up a dangerous opponent after the main break.
“It was pleasing from a defensive point of view was that we were able to keep Bunyip to seven points in the second half,” Singh explained.
“They’re a high-scoring team that move the ball well and our defensive structures held up well.
“It was a pleasing performance in the end because I really rate Bunyip and think they’re a quality team.
“It was nice to grind out a win in difficult conditions away from home.”
The Dusties have now won their last two, but in completely differing styles, with Saturday’s grinding victory following a 138-point drubbing of Korumburra-Bena last week.
Any victory is enjoyable, but Singh knows what style of win will benefit his team most moving forward.
“Given where we’ve come from in 2019, where we only had a couple of wins, it’s just nice to win any game of football,” he said.
“When you’re in positions to win games like we did last week, it’s important to maintain levels and build a brand that is dependable and will stand up under finals pressure.
“They were contrasting wins, but I think you build such good camaraderie and connection when you grind out wins like we did against Bunyip.
“And you want to become a team that finds a way to win regardless of the conditions and who you play against, and a team that makes no excuses.
“We’ve played some really good teams in Tooradin and Phillip Island and we’ve learned a lot from those games.
“I’m happy with the growth of the group.”
Mason McGarrity kicked two goals for the winners, while the defensive work of Michael Ablett and the efforts of ruckman Mark Bradley were crucial to the overall outcome.
Jason Williams kicked two goals for the Bulldogs, while Will Papley, Aaron Paxton and Jeb McLeod continued their fine form this season.
The Doggies face another tough one this week, heading to a rebounding Inverloch-Kongwak, while Singh and his soldiers will host Kilcunda-Bass at Western Park.
Korumburra-Bena is finally on the board this season, coming from behind to score a 4.9.33 to 4.5.29 victory over Garfield.
Parking your car in the right spot was really important in this one with all eight goals being kicked to the same end of the ground.
Great games from Jonty Bow, Jack Tenace-Greenall and Nick Lang had the Stars seven points in front at the final break, but the home side came home strong.
The Giants kept the Stars scoreless in the final term, while kicking an inaccurate 1.5 themselves to chip away at the deficit.
Regula defender Matt Lello kicked two goals for the Giants, while Bailey Nation, Nick Besley and the Walker boys – Alex, Jay and Kodie – were all instrumental in their team’s first win of the season.
Nar Nar Goon has made light work of Cora Lynn, scoring an 11.10.76 to 1.6.12 win at Spencer Street on Saturday.
These two are at opposite ends of the spectrum right now, the Goon undefeated while the Cobras are winless and languishing in second-last place on the ladder.
The Goon just had too many avenues to goal, with Troy McDermott bagging three and Matt Homfray, Kyle O’Sullivan, Dermott Yawney and Mitch Homfray all kicking two each.
Cory Machaya kicked the Cobras one and only goal in the first term.
Trent Armour showed his class in the wet conditions, winning the Bill ‘Doc’ Doherty Medal for best on ground, while James Cairns and Brendan Hermann were other stand-out performers.
Heath Briggs and Dillan Bass were best for the Cobras, who will be desperate to defeat Korumburra-Bena at the Cobradome this Saturday.
The high-flying Goon hit the bitumen to Dalyston.
Tooradin-Dalmore kicked the sweep on Saturday – winning 19.22.136 to 2.4.16 over Dalyston.
A seven-goal second quarter was the highlight for the Gulls, who kicked a wasteful 5.13 in the final term!
Brad Butler booted five, and Stewie Scanlon four, while Liam Adams, Piva Wright and Steve Robb were influential figures around the ground.
The Gulls play Garfield this week, before a tougher run of matches will see them hog the headlines against Inverloch-Kongwak, Bunyip, Phillip Island and Nar Nar Goon.
Jack Paravicini held his head high for the Magpies, while midfielders Mick Marotta and Curtis Murfett – and the left foot of Mason Storr – also saw plenty of action.
And a terribly wasteful Kooweerup has surged late to score a 3.16.34 to 4.4.28 victory over Kilcunda-Bass at the Bass Recreation Reserve.
The Demons were held to just one goal until three-quarter time, but kicked 2.6 to no score in the final term to edge clear for victory.
No goal kickers have been provided by either club, but Mitch Cammarano, Ethan McDonald and Nathan Voss were best for the winners, while gun recruits Nathan Foote and Dale Gawley were best for the Panthers.
The Demons will need to batten down the hatches this week against Phillip Island, before winnable assignments against Garfield and Korumburra-Bena loom large on the horizon.
The rueful Panthers, who have now lost two games by seven points or less, head to Warragul this week to take on the Dusties.
PLAYER TEAM GOALS
Jaxon Foon Dalyston Fourths 8
Isaac Braaksma Garfield Thirds 7
Brad Butler Tooradin-Dalmore Seniors 5
Adam Splatt Tooradin-Dalmore Reserves 5
Stewart Scanlon Tooradin-Dalmore Seniors 4
Kayne Somers Nar Nar Goon Reserves 4
Jehi Esler Tooradin-Dalmore Thirds 4
Panos Papas Tooradin-Dalmore Thirds 4
William Brewer Warragul Industrials Fourths 4