Titans stuck in a tough trot

Matt Soutter-Smith has been excellent down back for Berwick Springs this season. 405142 Picture: ROB CAREW

By Marcus Uhe

Hayden Stagg held his Titans behind closed doors for an extended post-game address on Saturday afternoon and delivered some “hard truths” in the aftermath of his side’s seven-point loss to Mt Evelyn in Outer East Football Netball Premier Division football.

Berwick Springs slumped to 0-5 after dropping Saturday’s contest, one in which they led at every break and even held a 19-point lead in on a day difficult for scoring, 5.6 36 to 5.13 43.

In the aftermath of the collapse, Stagg believed his players were not all on the same page, leading to frustration from the first year coach.

“We didn’t finish the game we instructed at three-quarter-time and it hurt us,” Stagg said.

“Our backs were against the wall kicking against the breeze but the way we didn’t carry out our game plan is more disappointing.

“The boys took the sting out of it too early and we couldn’t claw our way back.

“Unfortunately we’ve been in those positions a few too many times.

“The boys should have learned by now, but they haven’t, unfortunately.”

A strong wind blew across Mick Morland Reserve to the pavilion side of the oval and made executing skills incredibly difficult for all involved.

Both teams appeared hesitant to make the first move out of fear of making a mistake, putting a premium on heart, effort and grit.

Short kicks and possession-based football was abandoned as the wind grew tougher and tougher to manage, the play hugging the boundary on the facility side away from the interchange benches.

Having absorbed a mountain of pressure in the early stages, Berwick Springs capitalised late in the term by scrounging a trio of majors kicking with the wind, and then held the wasteful visitors goalless in a scrappy second term that consolidated their solid start, but lost Chris Johnson early to a shoulder injury.

Brodie Warlond slotted into the backline seamlessly in his return game and along with Riley Hillman and Cam Miller, their ability to mark the ball in the defensive half of the ground was critical.

Stagg reminded his troops at the long break that the job was only half done – a prescient message given their fortunes to date, given a failure to play four quarters so far.

In round one the Titans led at every break and conceded five goals in the final term to let slip a win against Gembrook Cockatoo.

In round two they were within a goal of Pakenham at the final break and lost by 29.

A goalless second quarter was the difference between them and Upwey Tecoma in four.

Would it be Groundhog Day for the Titans, or was the cycle finally going to break?

Callum Urquhart put the Rovers on the board in the opening minute of the quarter to kick Mt Evelyn into gear but goals to Kayden Buselli and Luke Morrell restored the 19-point buffer early in the third term.

On a difficult afternoon for scoring, two majors in the third term were valuable, and restored the home side to the biggest lead of the afternoon.

The final two of the third quarter went to the Rovers with the Titans failing to convert their own chances, and set the scene for a tense finale against the wind for the Titans.

Mt Evelyn were allowed too many uncontested marks inside its forward 50 as the pressure and weight of numbers inside the forward half began to take a toll.

The Rovers owned territory in the final term with the wind at their backs and hit the front after 18 minutes with the quarter’s first major.

Minutes later, it was Cooper Colee, a villain for an off-ball incident earlier in the contest with Matt Soutter-Smith, kicked the sealer as he manipulated the wind to perfection.

Overwhelming pressure from the Rovers saw them reclaim possession at half-forward and Colee kick a running goal that burst through the armour and broke Titan hearts.

With the game in their grasp, the Rovers put numbers behind the ball to clog the Titans’ forward half.

Ruckman Will Gordon took a handful of telling intercept marks in what was a telling few minutes for the Titans as they looked unable to solve the riddle in their forward half.

Time and time again they kicked long to a contest while lacking the height to compete, and time and time again it proved their downfall.

“It’s going to be a tough one to re-watch but it’s going to be a good one to review on Tuesday night,” Stagg said of the result.

“We shut off for too long a period time and teams get the jump on us, which hurts us.

“We definitely need to work at staying mentally switched on for the full four quarters.

“I think we’ve got to be confident in ourselves and our teammates to back ourselves and play the way we want to play.

“We’ve got a lot of new boys at the club, so I think once they instil the confidence in each other to take those kicks and do what we do, it’s going to be a different game.

In saying that, if we had’ve snagged one or two wins early on, it’s probably a different moment today, (because) the boys will back in the game plan to win.”

Warlond and Morrell were both excellent for the Titans at either end of the ground while Michael Misso was the best of the midfielders, shouldering more of a burden once Johnson went down.

The second of the Titans’ forecasted player coaches was taken to hospital for treatment on the injury, and could see both of them coaching from the sidelines in what would be a disastrous turn of events.

Oskar Knight was also unable to finish the contest due to injury after receiving some friendly fire, but Stagg was determined to not use the injuries as an excuse.

“Losing two of you better players does hurt, but that’s the nature of the beast with footy,” he said.

“We’ve definitely got the stocks to carry us through, that’s no dramas.

“I’ve got plenty of faith in the boys that are coming through, everyone’s got to stand out.”

Elsewhere, poor kicking for goal saw Officer miss a golden chance to snatch another win over a finalist in last season’s Premier Division, going down by 39 points to Upwey Tecoma in Upwey.

Officer missed all six shots on goal in the first term and seven of eight in the first half overall, while its opponents fared considerably better with 7.5 at the half, to lead by 34 points.

Five goals to six in the second half alleviated a blow out to either side, and kept the Kangaroos at a safe distance, unable to recover from the poor start, the score line finishing 13.9 87 to 6.12 48 in Upwey Tecoma’s favour.

Brent Moloney, Jake Gains and Brenton Hillard continue to set the standards for the ‘Roos and lead the charge as senior players.

Seven goals to Sam Toner sees the young prodigy’s star continue to ascend, propelling his side to a comfortable win over Olinda Ferny Creek at Kalora Park.

With bags of five and four already this year to go with Saturday’s seven, Toner rocketed into third place on the leading goal kicker’s list, the catalyst for the Magpies’ 83-point win, 19.14 128 to 6.9 45.

The Bloods held the home side goalless in the third quarter but a final term of 8.5 from Narre Warren set the record straight.

Will Howe, Jesse Davies, Riley Siwes, Daniel Toner and Hamish West each joined Toner as a multiple goal kickers, as Joshua West continues to impress in new colours.

At Gembrook, the Brookers got the jump on reigning premiers Wandin, but failed to maintain the lead for the remainder of the contest.

Wandin kicked 12.8 to 4.7 after quarter time to run away with a 48-point win, 14.12 96 to 7.7 49.

Given the combined margins of victory in the two contests last season was 309 points in Wandin’s favour, Saturday’s result shows considerable growth from Michael Firrito’s side.

Jesse Busacca, Dean Leskie and Matt Frazzetto all impressed for Gembrook Cockatoo, while Macauley Beckwith continues to fit well into the Wandin arsenal.

Emerald, meanwhile, kept pace with Woori Yallock for a half before failing to kick a goal in the second.

The Bombers trailed by just two points at the long break but finished 66 points behind, 5.9 (39) to 15.15 (105).

Benjamin Willder and Mitchell Thomas performed well in the defensive half, and kept key Tigers’ forward Taylor Gibson to five goals.