No Kors for concern

Pakenham players, from left, Jordan Stewart, Jai Rout (background), Rhys Brooks and match-winner Sam Kors celebrate their thrilling win over Monbulk. 407316 Picture: EUAN POULTON

By David Nagel

If full credit goes to the opposition for not allowing teams to play attractive football; then both Pakenham and Monbulk need to take a hell of a lot of credit for the first three quarters at Toomuc Reserve on Saturday.

A strong wind blew from the centre of the ground towards the main entrance at Toomuc Reserve; making executing skills difficult and turning the Outer East Premier Division clash into an error-filled contest.

How ironic then; that it took something extraordinary from match-winner Sam Kors to give the Lions an unlikely 7.4(46) to 6.9(45) victory over a team looking for its first win of the season.

Pakenham; five points behind, had to move the ball quickly when it trailed at the 28-minute mark of the final term; the ball in defensive 50.

With time running out; which created the sweet temptation of going long, Ryan Martini showed composure beyond his years to switch the ball wide to David Sollberger, who shrugged aside a split-second of hesitation to kick to Jaiden Camenzuli on the wing.

Camenzuli spotted a likely one-out option in Jordan Stewart, who took a spectacular grab; then turned and assessed his options.

A long kick, to 35-metres out, was the best he had on offer.

Kors was definitely not the best placed to take a mark, but sprinted to the contest, hitting the pack at pace and pulling in the best mark of the day.

Pakenham had just moved the ball from one end to the other; on a rare occasion on Saturday, as the desperation of the situation sunk in.

Kors steadies; and, as the ball hits his boot, the final siren sounds.

A big crowd held its breath as the ball sailed through the big sticks, giving Pakenham its first lead of the day – since the five-minute mark of the first quarter – to give the home side a memorable victory over a very brave opponent.

The Hawks – for 98-percent of the contest – looked the winners.

The Lions went into the game without number-one ruck Cooper Reilly, then lost midfielder Lachlan Sauze with an ankle injury in the first quarter.

Jackson Bramich then went down with a shoulder injury in the second, and when Jimmy Harrison was yellow-carded; and Jake Barclay suffered a knee-injury, at the 15-minute mark of the final term…the Lions were down to bare bones.

Somehow, they survived; with Kors very much the hero.

“I’m just trying to let it all sink in; it was a close game, but credit to the boys for fighting it out when it looked like we were gone,” Kors said, beaming after the match.

“I was a bit shaky, I knew what was happening, and I knew I needed to kick it, so it was a great relief to look up and see it go through.

“I had the breeze behind me; I aimed it at the right post, and it nearly hit the right post; so lucky it went through.

“You don’t think about that stuff at the time, but it feels great to help us get the four points and hopefully help us build some momentum from here on in.

“To finish the game off, after losing a few early as well, it shows the character of the group.”

Monbulk led by seven points at quarter time and when Ziggy Hatherley kicked two in a minute – beginning at the 12-minute mark of the second – the Hawks had kicked out to an even three-goal lead.

The Lions looked listless, but signs of life reappeared after youngster Bailey Brougham and Bailey Stiles cut the margin back to six at the major interval.

The third quarter was a shocker, with both teams struggling to handle the Sherrin in tough conditions.

A solitary goal to Monbulk gave the visitors a 14-point advantage, and Pakenham coach Paul Carbis something to think about at the final break.

“We won contested possession (28/22) that quarter, but we’re going nowhere,” Carbis said to his players at three-quarter time.

“Where is the energy; where is the courage to go fat side instead of dump kicking all the time.

“We’re just accepting what they’re giving us at the moment; we need to take the game on.”

It only took four minutes for those words to ring true, with Kors kicking the last-quarter opener and half-forward Jai Rout delivering a classy finish from a set shot.

The Lions were two points down; playing attractive footy for the first time all day and seemed to have all the momentum.

But skipper Pat Barge answered for the Hawks…the Lions now eight points adrift.

The returning Tom Hillard then nailed a ripper from long range at the 19-minute mark to set up the thrilling finish.

Carbis was a very relieved mentor post-match, after waiting 100 minutes for his team to produce its best football.

“It was pretty frustrating to be honest, but that was credit to Monbulk because they defended super-well today, they made the ground small and our boys just didn’t know how to react,” he said.

“But I think the last five to 10 minutes we were moving the ball quite well from the back half; it was just one kick that was off.

“We practice it a lot, but we just kept going down the line into their hands.

“We just have to keep re-emphasising the same message; but it sunk in just in time today.

“The boys took it on board, and that mark and goal at the end got us across the line.”

Carbis started his playmaker Stewart at full-forward, after six goals against Emerald last week, but a lack of quality supply forced him to reassess his options.

“In the first half we needed to score, and they did a good job on him, they put some blokes in front of him, so we put him down back,” Carbis said.

“We tried to create some space for him, and let him get back into the game, which is what he did.

“At three-quarter time we weren’t in a position to save it, we had to win it, so we put him down forward again.

“We took the game on a bit more, which helped our forwards, including Jordy, and he played a key role in that last passage of play.”

Carbis was impressed with the ability of his youngsters to have an impact when all looked lost in the final term.

“I kept BJ (Brougham) on the bench for a long time in the last quarter, just to make sure we had our better players in the right spots, and I thought this a kid who will probably have to go forward when he comes on,” Carbis said.

“But when Jimmy Harrison comes off: it was, ‘mate, you’re a midfielder in the under 19s, off you go and show us what you’ve got.

“He did really well I thought and gave us a bit of a buzz around the ground.

“And then other guys stepped up in the middle; Thommo (Jake Thompson) got going for us, Rhys (Clacy) was in there, and D (D’Angelo Taito) was terrific in the ruck; he just fights and we know that’s what we’re going to get from him.”

But the final word just has to belong to Kors.

“Look, it’s a game that will definitely go in the memory bank…that’s for sure.”